Bynum General Store to drop postal service http://www.heraldsun.com/chatham/13-696213.html
BY JENNIFER FERRIS : The Herald-Sunjferris@heraldsun.com
Jan 31, 2006 : 7:57 pm ET
BYNUM -- In a time when most everything in northern Chatham County has started to grow, tucked into the curve of the Haw River is a sleepy little country store that has been left behind by the trend. Soon it may be left behind for good.
In 1936, the Bynum General Store opened for business as the Williams' Store and was one of five emporiums that brought dry goods and groceries to the rapidly growing population of the small mill town.
Over the years, the store changed names and hands, but remained a fixture for area residents. After the local post office closed in 1970, the Harris family added post office boxes to the eastern wall of the shop and soon found they were the center of town activity.
Now the owner of the store -- Jerry Partin -- says he doesn't know if the Bynum General Store will remain open past the end of March.
Several months ago Partin made the decision to drop the postal service -- the yearly payment from the postal service of $6,500 isn't enough to warrant the effort, he said.
The 105 post office box customers will be forced to move, but Partin said he's not sure what the new solution will be. Most likely the postal service will build a mail kiosk either at the Bynum Ruritan Club on Charlie Fields Road or near the softball field.
Partin may soon face yet another difficult decision: whether or not to close the store entirely.
A robbery last year cleared the store out of $2,000 of merchandise, and now, Partin said, his insurance company is refusing to cover the store. If he can't find a company to provide at least liability insurance, he will be forced to close his doors forever.
"Right now, I'm just totally in limbo," Partin said. "If I can't get insurance, then there's no way I can stay open."
At one time, every Bynum resident was required to have a post office box, but through the years many have begun to receive their mail at curbside boxes at their homes.
However, those curbside customers now have Pittsboro addresses. For some longtime residents, receiving mail at a Bynum address is a point of pride, and the only way to do that is to have it delivered to a Bynum post office box -- at the general store.
When Partin took over the store 10 years ago, he said there weren't enough post office boxes to go around, and families often had to share boxes with their neighbors.
Every few minutes a customer would walk in to mail a letter or buy a quart of milk, and the store was always a bustling hive of energy.
But Tuesday afternoon Partin sat alone in the store, quietly stocking the old wood stove that provides the small shop with both heat and a homey ambience.
When the state Department of Transportation closed a small bridge over the Haw River that connected the two halves of Bynum five years ago, business went down significantly, Partin said.
Shortly thereafter, he created a concert series to help lure more customers to the store, and while the concerts have drawn up to 700 people, the live music nights have never been enough to sustain business during the week.
Now he has less than 30 customers a day, he said, and most spend only a few dollars. He hasn't lost much money on the business, but said he expects that to change as well after the post office is gone.
"Used to be a tie when the store supported the post office," he said. "Now the post office supports the store."
But while the post office might provide one of the store's most significant sources of revenue, Partin said he's just not willing anymore to do the amount of work required to comply with the postal service's regulations.
He must stay open certain hours and remain bonded so he can handle money orders. Twice a day he fills the tiny mail slots and he has to keep detailed logs and reports on stamp sales and inventory.
All that adds up to a commitment he's not willing to make anymore, he said.
However, he will try his best to keep the store open as long as he can.
When asked why he would trouble himself with something he says is a losing proposition, he speaks wistfully about his happy childhood.
"I grew up here and I used to catch the bus at this store," he said. "Back then Bynum was so full of kids they had to send the largest school bus in the county. Back then they had a big potbelly stove sitting in the middle of the store and we'd come in and warm up before going back outside to play marbles.
"It's home and I'd like to keep it that way."