It’s always been important to support black business, and these days it’s more important than ever to support the USPS. At The Postman, you can do both. The family-run mail service in the Central District has been “keeping communities connected” since 2018. Married couple D’Vonne and KeAnna Pickett are fifth generation Central District residents, keeping a tradition of postal service alive in honor of D’Vonne’s grandfather, Jacques Chappell, who was a USPS mail carrier for 37 years. But the Postman is more than a place to get your packages shipped. The founders bring a warmth and sincere sense of togetherness into every level of the business. We spoke to D’Vonne and KeAnna about the importance of community and legacy at the Postman, and how they’re staying connected through social distancing.
What are some fond memories that you have of small businesses growing up in the Central District?
D’Vonne: Just knowing them. What we're doing now is what we felt when we grew up. You could go to Sammy's Burgers or Miss Helen's and they know you, they know your family, they know your whole background. It’s that inclusive community feel.
KeAnna: I feel like local business is the first place that kids learn their independence because they're learning how to spend their money and then building relationships with the people who work in those businesses.
In what ways does D’Vonne’s grandfather’s legacy guide the way The Postman operates?
D: He worked hard. He was reliable. He was stable for the family. He was a very important piece and one of the pivotal people carrying our generations on forward. We believe in ancestry. What we're doing today, we feel like he paved the way for that to some degree. He wasn't an entrepreneur, but me seeing him get up every day to go to work and not complain and cut the grass and still have time for us—he was a good role model. He's somebody you want to model your life like with your own splash.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you've learned in being a business owner?
D: There's always something to do. We've done the groundwork of being CEOs and being on the floor doing the till. We can go to that level of dealing with customers who are frustrated or something didn't go right. How do you go about retaining customers all while still building? As owners, at some point your business is going great and succeeding. But how do you get it to the next level? We're planning to expand. There's just always something to be done. And you have to be that driving force within it.
Tell me about the art featured in the shop.
K: Most of the artwork that is in the shop right now is mine. I'm looking to start hiring artists to produce postcards like I was doing to get justice for Breonna Taylor. There's so many talented artists that come through. It's really cool to have that conversation with them about business. When you're an artist, a lot of times you just want people to feel good, and to express yourself. But there's a business side, too, so we’re trying to figure out how we can elevate the artist.
D: We've started out with KeAnna's artwork to get the traction, but as we expand, we'll start advertising for people to have space on the wall to share their art. Our whole thing is community, so anything that we can do that makes sense with our business that can bring that in there, we're willing to do it.
How do you define community for yourself?
D: We're spiritual, so we believe in energy. Community is really everyone—that's why our business is universal. It's just not the city. Community as a whole is any of the people that we encounter; people that we touch.
K: People that inspire us or we inspire them. D’Vonne and I have traveled a lot. We've gone to a lot of schools and have family all over the place. Community expands across the globe. It’s who we connect with and then who our customers are connecting with.
What role does community play in how you approach the way you run your business?
D: Social media has been a big thing for us. We get a picture of almost every customer, whoever's willing, and put them on our Instagram. We like to show the variety of people and the relationships we have. People make businesses every day. It's not much to start one as far as just registering an LLC. But it’s the meaning behind it, the focus—we’re definitely keeping communities connected in a real way. That's who we are as people.
What are some things that you're doing to stay connected during these times of social distancing?
D: I’ve been doing a lot of meditating and really just slowing things down. It's a time where a lot of the stuff that at one point you thought mattered doesn't hold as much significance. We’re trying to figure out how we can be of most help to the community, meeting with like-minded people, brainstorming. For example, you see protesters and you're like, "Damn. Let's protest." But then it's like that's not really it.
K: There's many ways to protest, like how we have the postcards to get justice for Breonna Taylor. We want to show people different ways of getting their voice heard.
D: Even with the business being open, the drive, that's a form of standing up for what you believe in and walking the walk. We’re trying to figure out where to allocate funds to help out even more. It's challenging because there's a lot of depth to it—I don't want people to feel like what they're doing is not helping. I just think everyone has a position.
What types of pros do you recommend to the Fresh Chalk users?
“We love the customer service and menu. We have a special drink they whip up for us to get us right.”
“They do a great job handling our special printing needs.”
“We love that this company brings style and flavor and is owned by our peers.”
“This market brightens our Fridays. They are across the street from us and we love that it gets the people out and joy in health.”