Pony Express in White Center closing after 32 years
Pony Express, the local White Center shipping and mailing business is closing after 32 years on June 30. Claire Denning, the owner is sad but determined to see this as the end of another chapter in her life.
The business began in 1979 was originally located across from the current McLendon's Hardware location at 1412 102nd s.w. She left her family business in 1987 to take over the Pony Express as the third owner.
Then, three years ago, she was forced to move by her landlord and business began to drop dramatically.
"It took everything I had to move here, my savings, my retirement. When I was forced out over there I never recovered. But this has been my life," she said.
Denning is tough however and is hoping for the best."I'm a survivor. I survived abuse, I survived rape. So I'm hoping I can help people. I'd like to help women to let them know they are going to survive, that they are going to make it. There have been times I didn't have two nickels to rub together but I had three children to raise and I have a house and a mortgage but I had gone through a divorce. But I will have to sell everything I have. I have an expensive mortgage."
The primary reason she's closing is just a pure lack of business. She's had a negative income for three years. Once she made the move to the current location at 1606 s.w. 104th business dropped by 50%. For example Christmas was a busy season at the old location. Four years ago she shipped 144 packages in one day. The biggest Christmas shipping day since saw 14 packages go out the door.
Her mainstay has been the mail boxes, shipping, money orders and, "my personality," she said," and the way I take care of the neighborhood. I have a lot of customers who come in here who speak no english and don't know anything but I know what they want. So they hand me their money and I do it."
"I may lose everything," she said, choking back tears. But she has been in tears, as have many of her customers since she began notifying them of the closure a week ago.
She regards herself as the neighborhood secretary and her customers know her and love her according to Denning. 80% of the things she has on her walls was given to her by customers. "I will be missed, and I will miss them. It's like a little family here."
Her cat, Peaches is 18 years old and Denning found her when she was 1 week old. Denning said, "She will have to retire now. I doubt that even if I can find another job it would be a place where they would let me keep her at work. Peaches actually has her own page on ShopCat.com and Denning said, "A lot of my customers recognize her before they do me."
This will leave customers without her services. Customer Dan Knollmeyer doesn't know where he will go now for those services. "I have no idea because this is where I trust. Legal stuff is not something you just trust anybody with," he said.
"I enjoyed it for all the years I've been doing it. I really did.(,,,) I've been really fortunate in that I've had a lot of support from the neighbors, the neighborhood and the church. They've just been wonderful. I go to Three Tree Community Church and they've been helpful and The Cross Church in White Center has been very good to me also. Jennifer is going to help me with a resume and Jerry said he would have some of the guys help me with my house. It's really who you know and how you treat them," Denning said crying," I didn't think I'd ever need taking care of."