Customers feel loss of Lake Street post office

mobile post office
The Postal Service brought its mobile post office to the vacant Kmart parking lot on June 18 and 19. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

For over 25 years, Lake Street post office customers could count on Fred Brombach greeting them with a smile and a joke.

“I would usually enter the post office kind of cranky,” longtime Kingfield resident Nan Marie Zosel said. “After my interaction with Fred, I would leave thinking, ‘OK, that wasn’t so bad.’”

Southwest Minneapolis residents say the clerks at the Lake Street station, which was burned down during the unrest following George Floyd’s killing, were friendly and kind.

They said they were sad to see the building destroyed and hope to see it rebuilt.

“It’s just tough to see places that are so embedded in the history of the neighborhood get damaged like that,” ECCO president Dane Stimart said.

USPS ‘exploring options’

The Lake Street and the Minnehaha post offices were completely destroyed on May 29. United States Postal Service (USPS) spokeswoman Nicole Hill said the postal service is “exploring options” as far as rebuilding but declined to say more.

The federal Postal Inspection Service is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people who destroyed the post offices and/or stole mail from them. Those who sorted through the building’s wreckage the day after it burned, removing charred letters with the intent to deliver them, will not be prosecuted.

A window at the Loring Park post office has been set up so Lake Street customers can pick up their PO Box mail and mail held due to damaged businesses or residencies.

Home postal delivery to people in the Lake Street station service area resumed June 1. The Postal Service has also explored alternative ways of providing service to South Minneapolis residents affected by the unrest, bringing its mobile post office to the vacant Kmart parking lot on June 18 and 19. The truck offered residents the ability to drop off packages and buy stamps and money orders.

Neighbors said they were appreciative of the service.

“We don’t have a darn thing around us,” said Claudette Peters, adding that she has to travel longer distances to get medications and cash.

Post office Fred
Fred at the post office

A community institution

The Lake Street station, located at 31st & 1st in the Lyndale neighborhood, had been operating since the late 1970s, Hill said.

Brombach, who’s been reassigned to the Diamond Lake post office, said the Lake Street location drew people of different races and walks of life and was popular in South Minneapolis because it had a parking lot.

South Uptown resident Mary Scavotto said she’s missed the Lake Street post office and the friendly staff who worked there — and Brombach in particular. You never knew if you wanted to be in his line, because he talked a lot, she said, but “you were sad when he wasn’t there, too.”

Stimart said it was “heartbreaking” to watch the station burn down. He said staff who worked there were “incredibly friendly” and that he hopes they’re doing OK.

Most have been reassigned to the Loring Park station, Hill said.

‘Shocked and surprised’

Brombach said he tries to keep a positive attitude and be cheery for customers. He said he’d had opportunities to transfer to the station closest to his Lake Nokomis-area home but didn’t want to leave the Lake Street station.

“You just build these relationships,” he said, noting that he got to know families as they grew up and retirees who came in every week. “It really made for a community there.”

Brombach hasn’t been back to see the charred remains of the site and was emotional when he talked about the destruction of the building, calling it a “personal loss.” He said he hopes it can be rebuilt and that he’s been humbled by the customers who have asked after him over the past few weeks.

He’s even received cards from well-wishers.

“I was just really shocked and surprised and blown away,” he said.