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Monday, September 26, 2022
<p>The post office at Wood and Swink Old Store is slated for closure. If the post office closed, 85 Evinston residents would have to make alternative arrangements to receive mail.</p>

The post office at Wood and Swink Old Store is slated for closure. If the post office closed, 85 Evinston residents would have to make alternative arrangements to receive mail.

If you drive 20 minutes south from Gainesville on U.S. 441 and hang a left just before the "Welcome to Marion County" sign, you'll end up on a narrow, two-lane road that seems to take you back in time.

The road dead-ends in front of Evinston United Methodist Church.

To the right are cow pastures.

To the left, within spitting distance from the county line, is Wood and Swink Old Store and Post Office, established 1882.

Wood and Swink's post office is one of 3,700 slated for closure by the United States Postal Service.

Without the business of the mail, former owner Freddie Wood Jr. said, the future of the historic shop is uncertain.

The only Gainesville post office that will be closing is located at 401 SE First Ave.

"It's a meeting place," Wood said of the store. "People get their mail there in the morning and get to see each other and get to talk. If we lost [the post office], we'd lose that."

Wood's family settled in Evinston in the late 1870s, when mail came into the town via railroad.

His grandfather owned Wood and Swink from 1910, then passed it to Wood's uncle, then his parents.

Wood inherited the store after his mother's death in 1990, more than 40 years after his father first put him to work there at the age of 12.

Wood turned the store over to his son Fred two years ago but still works around the store in the afternoons, after he finishes working on his farm.

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Through the mid-1980s, Wood and Swink was a full-service grocery store, but business has now dwindled to sales of homemade pickled hot peppers, cold drinks and trinkets. A few dusty shelves in a corner of the shop contain old vinyl records, sold for a dollar apiece. Without the revenue from the mailbox rentals, Wood said, that money wouldn't be enough to keep the store afloat.

There are 85 pick-up mailboxes in use at the store, give or take a few, postmaster Scarlett Kinder said.

If the post office closed, box holders would have to arrange for rural delivery to their homes.

A representative from USPS will come to talk to Evinston residents about the potential closure at some unspecified date in the near future.

Just about everyone in town is against it, Wood said.

Since Wood and his wife, Wilma Sue Brown-Wood, still have their farm, the store closing wouldn't put them in too much financial trouble.

But the social impact of closing, Wood said, would be huge for Evinston.

"It just takes something away from me," he said. "It would sure affect me not being able to talk to everyone. Old, young, male, female, black, white - doesn't matter. I like them all."

Katie Deadenick used to have a mailbox at Wood and Swink but had to close it when she moved to McIntosh.

Now she brings her children, Mark and Maggie, to the store as a treat.

She waits with the car running while they rummage around in the drink cooler and pick out three-cent pieces of bubblegum.

"A lot of people count on this place," Deadenick said. "We'll be sad to see it go."

The residents of Evinston heard about a month ago that the post office might close. Since then, Wood said they've written to politicians, asking them to intervene.

They just don't see how closing Evinston's humble post office will save USPS very much money.

A better solution, Wood said, would be to charge a mailbox fee to urban residents, for whom mail delivery is free.

He believes forcing people who live in rural settings to pay expensive fees for mail delivery or taking pick-up boxes in bigger towns that are farther away is unfair.

"It's another nail in the coffin for rural America," he said.

The post office at Wood and Swink Old Store is slated for closure. If the post office closed, 85 Evinston residents would have to make alternative arrangements to receive mail.

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