The Faces of the Gardiner Post Office
By Ray Smith
“It’s the local watering hole without the alcohol” is how Tony Yambay characterizes the Gardiner Post Office. Tony, along with Willie Perrotta and Postmaster Eugene Pozza, each described the customer service they provide as the most interesting part of their jobs. Our post office’s front office works as a team―in Willie’s words, “We’re trying to keep the business here.”
They certainly do their best to keep the customers coming back; one mid-summer Saturday, when a package arrived for me after I’d already emptied my PO box, Willie phoned me at home. The package said “KEEP COOL,” and Willie wanted to ensure that it didn’t stay in the post office over the weekend.
According to our postmaster, Gene, winter brings the hardest days. “I’m worried about the carriers because we have an open loading dock. Is there enough salt and sand out there and out front? Do we need to put chains on the delivery vehicles? I try to plan ahead―anticipate rather than procrastinate.” Gene, who lives in Wallkill, started his career with the post office eleven years ago (serving in Ossining, Brewster, Wappingers Falls, and Kingston) and previously worked for Airborne Express and Emery Air Freight.
He’s rarely without a book about World War II, and also watches documentaries on the subject. But there’s also time for family plus the Mets and Jets. Having grown up in Queens, Gene enjoys Gardiner’s small town atmosphere: “I appreciate the stories our customers tell.”
Willie Perrotta grew up in Wappingers Village and now lives in La Grange. Her post office career spans twenty-six years. Much of that was in the post office plant in Newburgh, until a friend touted the praises of Waynesville, North Carolina; she and her family started going down annually until a post office job opened up. Willie moved to Waynesville, expecting her family to follow as soon as their home was sold. That didn’t happen, so Willie came back, worked for six months in Thornwood and then came to Gardiner.
When asked about the best part of her job, Willie said, “I have to say―the people. In Gardiner there are so many artistic people. People come from all different countries to Skydive the Ranch. I met someone who does assignments for National Geographic.” The least interesting aspect of the job? “Boxing mail,” Willie says. That is, the robot-like chore of slotting the mail into the PO boxes.
Tony Yambay heads to Palm Coast, Florida, every chance he gets, and I finally found out why. His goal has long been a post office job near there and, when that seemed an easy possibility, his wife and children moved down. But the present economy put a damper on such transfers. So Tony waits. In the meantime, he lives with his parents in Plattekill, where he grew up. Before joining the postal service seven years ago, Tony had a night shift job with IBM. But the postal service seemed like a good opportunity. He started in Phoenicia and has been in Gardiner for about five years. Hard to believe, but he claims he was deathly afraid of dealing with the public. Tony now says, “The most interesting part of the job is dealing with the customers. You have to have a real interest in the customers. I don’t like to disappoint people, so I’m willing to go the extra mile.”
All three preside over a most welcoming community gathering spot . . . without the alcohol.