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Published June 09, 2011, 09:43 PM

Possible Bathgate, ND, Post Office Closure Bad News for Local Business

Another rural North Dakota town is in danger of losing its post office as the postal service tries to streamline its services. But shutting it down poses a threat to a local business.

Another rural North Dakota town is in danger of losing its post office as the postal service tries to streamline its services.

But shutting it down poses a threat to a local business.

A retired postmaster says before postal reps think about shutting this office down, they should take a look, because there is no shortage of reasons why it should stay open.

Less than a minute in the car, it doesn't take a lot to drive through the small town. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot going on in Bathgate.

Book publisher Bethlehem Books' stories reach a huge audience. The company spends about $15,000 on postage every year and sends 40,000 pieces of mail.

Open six days a week, such a small building plays such a big part in how Bethlehem's books and magazines reach the country and the world.

"We've been able to go overnight anywhere in America from here in Bathgate. That's been a great advantage and it's not going to happen once the post office closes," Jack Sharpe said.

The Postal Service, losing $23 million a day, is looking at closing several post offices for good or at least temporarily.

"In small towns when they lose the grocery store, it doesn't come back. The train tracks, they're never coming back. If the post office goes, it's not coming back," former postmaster Mary Ann Houston said.

It's a huge blow for Bethlehem Books, which faces losing a lot of business should the post office close. And for Houston, who was postmaster for 18 years, the decision doesn't make a lot of sense.

"I think it bothers me more than I try to let on. The office is making more than it is putting out and so I felt like it wasn't a threat," Houston said.

Since Bethlehem Books came to town in 1999, revenue for the post office has quadrupled. Houston hopes the postal service sees how much goes on at this post office.

"It's hard to see a town die. We care about each other," Houston said.

A Postal Service representative said the rural post offices wouldn't be shut down for at least a year.

A meeting is scheduled for Monday in Bathgate, where a representative will gauge just how important the office is to the town.

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