“The guys in here are totally awesome,” reads one online review of the U.S. Post Office on Main Street in Seal Beach. The postal workers are described as “so friendly and fun.”
Fun at the post office? That’s right.
The lighthearted atmosphere at Mariner Station in Old Town is thanks to longtime postal workers Mark Shank and Gino Nardo. For the past nine years, the two men have been the welcoming faces behind the counter, known for kidding customers, and one another, all while helping people mail items at the best price.
“We’re professional but then we joke around,” Nardo said with a grin during a recent interview.
But change is coming to Seal Beach’s happy little post office as this duo is departing.
After working 37 years for the postal service in Seal Beach, Shank, 63, is retiring and moving to Alabama. His last day is Friday, June 14th. Nardo, 59, is expected to retire at the end of the year. (Look for another article on Nardo’s retirement then.)
A hub for locals, the post office is home to more than 770 P.O. boxes. Nardo likened it to a barber shop because of all the stories he and Shank have heard over the years from regulars. “I’m gonna cry all day on my last day,” Shank said during an interview in late May. “I’ll miss everybody.”
“He’s totally a part of our community,” Lisa Terry said of Shank as she waited in line at the post office recently. Terry, 48, said she’s lived in Seal Beach her whole life and will miss Shank and Nardo when they retire. “They get the culture of our people and our town,” she said.
Free Tape, Free Lollipops and Friendliness
Shank has been a postal worker for 37-and-a-half-years and 37 of those years have been in Seal Beach. In the 1980s he was a letter carrier in Old Town but all that walking took a toll on his knees. So, he transferred to the post office on Westminster Boulevard. He’s been at the Main Street post office since 2010. He also lived in College Park East for years before moving to Cypress.
Along the way he fell in love with another postal worker. “I met my wife at the Seal Beach post office,” Shank said. The couple have two kids and while the marriage didn’t last, he still considers it “the best thing” that happened during his career.
“Every day’s been good,” Shank said reflecting on his career and emphasized how he’s loved getting to know the Seal Beach community. “They know my name, I know their name.” He said he’s made a lot of friends and has enjoyed seeing generations of families grow up.
During slower times on a shift, you may have caught Shank working on a Sudoku book, which he was always quick to drop to help a customer. And he was always quick with a joke.
“Not there!” Shank teased a customer as she placed a mailing sticker on a box. She smiled and so did Shank. “We’ve used that one a lot,” he said with twinkling eyes animated behind his glasses.
You can thank Shank for a popular perk at the Main Street post office – free tape. Most post offices make you purchase packaging tape to secure boxes but not here. Shank has been buying the tape for customers to use all these years.
“That’s the Old Town Main Street customer service that Mark brings to our post office,” customer David Marcus remarked as Shank taped up a package for him recently. Marcus owns Baby Boomers clothing store on Main Street and said he’s been coming to the post office for more than 30 years. “I’m going to miss his always happy demeanor,” Marcus said of Shank.
Shank is the reason many children in Seal Beach associate a trip to the post office with a free sweet treat. “He always makes sure he has lollipops for [the kids],” Candace Iwami, Director of Seal Beach Playgroup preschool, recalled during a recent stop at the post office. Shank keeps a bin of Dum Dums tucked behind the counter and regularly hands them to young visitors.
“Nobody’s cooler to work with than Mark,” Nardo said of his co-worker and shared that they’ve never had an argument. Nardo described his partner in clowning around as easy going, no-drama and caring.
That caring was on display late last month when an older woman using a walker came in to buy some stamps. She handed Shank a $100 bill. “Do you have anything smaller?” he asked and explained his cash register had a total of one hundred dollars in it including the coins. She didn’t so Shank went next door to Nick’s Deli and got change for her.
“These have to be the nicest postal employees in the world!” a woman mailing a graduation card remarked when she witnessed the kind deed.
Shank’s favorite mailing story is of a customer who got creative when sending Nike shoes to a relative in the Philippines. The first two pairs she shipped never made it and were likely stolen upon arrival. So, she decided to try sending one shoe at a time. It worked! Another interesting fact, people often ship Nick’s Deli’s breakfast burritos from the Main Street post office. Apparently, they freeze the burritos and send them Express Mail.
Retiring to Alabama
Shank’s retirement was supposed to happen seven years ago but life got in the way. Shank said one of his sons decided to go back to school so he delayed moving to his lakeside house in Alabama and regular outings on his 24-foot boat, or “party barge” as he calls it, were put on hold.
As Shank puts it, Alabama is a place where “a mailman can afford a house on the lake.” His new town, Curry, is so small it doesn’t even have a post office. Shank will have to travel to nearby Jasper to mail anything. And he’ll probably have to bring his own tape.