Just like any other retailer, Jeff Tilem receives regular shipments of new inventory for his store. But he also receives packages other store owners may not expect—like a model’s wardrobe shipped from Turkey. Tilem, owner of Pioneer Hardware in Beverly Hills, has a recognizable ZIP code: 90210. He also has a store next to a post office that doesn’t have mailboxes for rent. So, about five years ago, he added a small bank of boxes in his store.
“Lots of people travel regularly, and others may have moved away from the area but still want to maintain a local mailbox,” he says. “It’s a matter of convenience—people can do their shopping and pick up their mail, too. It’s like an old-fashioned general store concept.” He has one customer who regularly travels between different states and another who writes scripts and needs a local mailing address. Others, such as the model, have large boxes being shipped from overseas and need a place where they can be delivered.
“I have a shipping and receiving department and a back room where I can store things, and the post office is right next door, so it’s easy for me to offer this service,” Tilem says. He rents out the boxes for either an annual or monthly fee. He provides some extras, too, such as texting clients to let them know mail has come in or running over to the post office for them.
“There’s a per-incidence fee,” he says. “I may not charge them just to text them, but if I have to go over to the post office for them, there might be an extra fee.”
Of course, the mailboxes bring traffic to his store, as customers stop by regularly to pick up their mail. The boxes are located in the back corner, which means anyone picking up their mail walks through the store to get to their mailbox. “Our store is about a block from the main road, and we see more locals than tourists,” Tilem says. “This is where residents shop for what they need for their homes. Having mailboxes isn’t a huge moneymaker, but it’s a nice service to offer.”