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The new Pioneer Postal Store, a new concept in post offices and the first of its kind in Utah, opened Tuesday in the ZCMI Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

A grand opening is scheduled Friday and Saturday, but the new facility, at the east end of the shopping center's second floor, was open and available for public use Tuesday. Informal tours will be conducted, and cookies and helium balloons will be given out."One of the biggest differences the public will see is that they don't have to wait in a line to be waited on. All our stock (stamps and other materials) are on display in the store. Customers can walk up, determine what they want and take it to a cash register in the middle of the store or take it to any one of three counter positions," said manager Scott Norris.

The store, which replaces the former Pioneer Postal Station in the Federal Building, is designed to allow customers to walk in and buy what they want at vending machines or in packages similar to those found in a department store. But a line had still formed at what is termed a full-service area when a Deseret News photographer arrived for pictures Tuesday.

"We are all learning. Business has been very busy today. It's always busy at a post office on the day after a holiday. We try to keep things running smoothly and so far we have," Ed Winter, a window technician, said late Tuesday afternoon.

A total of 231 customers had made purchases, and many people who rent post office boxes (the store has about 600 boxes of various sizes) had visited the facility by 5:30 p.m., half an hour before the store closed. Store hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Adam Geldhof, Washington, D.C., an information systems analyst for postal retail stores across the country (there are now 34 - most on the East and West coasts), said postal service officials are open to suggestions from the public.

`We care very much what customers think and want," Geldhof said.

"So far we have received very good customer response. All future renovations and new construction of post offices will be in this design," Geldhof said.

The diamond-shaped design makes use of space more efficiently, thus lowering leasing costs. That enables officials to put more money into construction and furniture costs, he said.

The new postal station is designed for "quick post" and for longer transactions such as resetting of postage meters, passports and money orders.