One of Ashland's best kept secrets, the Contract Postal Unit operating out of Rite Aid, will close on March 28.




For the past 15 years, people have been taking advantage of abundant parking and shorter lines at Ashland's "second post office."




Rite Aid, which offers many of the same services as the downtown post office, rents 536 mail boxes and has a retail counter, all of which will be closed.




"We call it Ashland's hidden post office," said Shell Hall, who works across the street from Rite Aid and uses the CPU at least once a week.




"I'll be sad when it closes," Hall said, and joked that with the high price of gasoline right now, it would cost her $5 to drive all the way downtown.




Local resident Karla Danforth took the news hard.




"This is devastating. There's not enough parking or staff downtown to handle the volume in Ashland," she said.




Danforth said she's always been pleased with the service at Rite Aid.




"They're fast, efficient and friendly. This is very sad news for Ashland," she said.




Rite Aid Manager Marla Lumsden said she couldn't discuss why the company decided not to renew its contract with the U.S. Postal Service.




Ashley Flower, spokesperson for Rite Aid's corporate communications office in Harrisburg, Pa., said, "We are no longer going to operate the postal unit once the contract expires. This decision was based on a number of factors and I can't reveal what those factors are, other than to say it was a business decision."




Tim Ross, officer-in-charge of the Ashland Post Office, said he's disappointed with Rite Aid's decision to not renew the contract.




"But I'll be visiting businesses in that area of town to see if they'd be interested in operating a CPU," he said. "I'd like to get something lined up before the Rite Aid contract ends in March."




He said interested businesses will receive an information packet and can then take part in the postal service's bidding system. According to Ross, businesses operating a CPU site receive a percentage of the mail box rents and postage sales.




"Not to mention the increased foot traffic CPUs create for businesses," he said.




According to Ross, the percentage varies from business to business, based on factors such as building size, handicap accessibility and amount of parking spaces.




Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x226 or .