Monday, May 20, 2019

Stamp of approval: The World's Smallest Post Service meets the country's once-smallest post office

By C.J. Hirschfield

She runs "The World’s Smallest Post Service." I run a park that contains what used to be the country’s smallest post office. We’re both in Oakland. Clearly, our paths were destined to cross, and they did last week. What may come of our meeting might just get more kids writing letters — real, live letters that generate love and joy — and that would be a good thing on many levels, we both believe.
That penny proves that Lea's tiny mail really is quite small!
Artrepeneur Lea Redmond says she started the World's Smallest Post Service (WSPS) on a whim back in 2008, locating it out on the corner of Sweet Adeline’s Bakeshop in Oakland. Dressed in a postal uniform she made herself, she transcribed tiny letters for passers-by seated by her miniature wooden rolltop desk. People loved it. It eventually became so popular that she started a website offering a handful of tiny mail items to be shipped inside slightly-larger boxes so they don’t get lost. To date, her tiny mail has charmed tens of thousands of both senders and receivers. 

Lea grew up in Seal Beach, California, and spent much of her time as a kid at The Desk Drawer, a local stationery store where she was delighted by the stickers and paper. She was always into letter writing, which she says was normal to her as a kid, but now, with smartphones and emails, “tangible letters seem all the more meaningful to both the writer and the receiver.” She believes that people want to slow down, to reflect, and to appreciate each other. “Tiny mail offers one small way to do just that,” she says.

Lea also created a “Letters To My:” series of charming interactive books (Letters to my Future Self, Letters to my Grandchildren, Letters to my Baby) which was picked up by Oprah as one of her favorite things. The resulting financial success, Lea says, “is why as an artist I didn’t have to leave the Bay Area.”
With the Tiny Mail Stationery Kit, you can make your own tiny letters and packages. It's like the DIY home version of the World’s Smallest Post Service.

What kinds of tiny letters do people send? Love letters, birthday greetings, notes from the tooth fairy, wedding invites, letters from fairies, mice and Santa’s elves—even wedding proposals. And what do people write? “They are so heartfelt and creative,” Lea says. To send tiny mail, you type out the info for your custom tiny letters and packages through the company website, add real-world shipping addresses, review your order, and go through checkout. What then? You can either think of a magic wand turning it into a tiny version, or you could imagine a careful process involving a fancy laser printer, very steady hands, and excellent craft skills. Of course, your mail is sent with a magnifying glass so your recipient can actually read it…

Lea’s business, run by herself and three part-time helpers, also provides tiny letter kits, as well as tiny packages, that can include items like bouncy balls, compasses, and tiny flower arrangements.

Lea visiting the antique postal counter that she found on Craigslist.

And thanks to a recent -- and fully realized -- crowdfunding campaign, Lea will soon be opening a brick-and-mortar studio/workspace/storefront on 15th and Webster in Oakland where folks can buy and send tiny mail, even handcrafting their own. She has purchased a beautiful antique oak post office counter to add to the experience.

“We want to make a place, a magical coordinate on the globe where people can count on wonder and kindness,” is how she describes her vision. 

In 1954, young "Queen" Connie Quackenbush mailed the first letter from Children's Fairyland's on-site post office, the smallest one in the U.S. at the time.
When Lea learned that Children’s Fairyland boasts what used to be the smallest (“child-sized”) post office in the U.S., she knew we had to connect. Opened in 1954, the post office operated for 21 years with a hand-cranked cancel machine that printed “Fairyland Station, Oakland, California 94612,” and a real, live postal employee. Inside the fanciful domed building are whimsical paintings of letters addressed to animals, and other inhabitants of the park. There used to be both a model airplane and a mini train that circled the interior dome of the structure. Kids were encouraged to write and post letters that they created on little desks outside.

Decommissioned in 1976 by the federal government due to budget cuts, the building is now used on weekends for arts and crafts activities.

But, what if…?

Lea and I brainstormed about how we could bring back the post office on select weekends. Imagine how fun it will be for kids and their adults to work together to write (or draw) a letter with tools, rubber stamps, stickers and envelopes, and imagine how special it will be for friends or family members to receive!

Is this town big enough for two tiny post offices? We sure think so. Because you just can’t have enough whimsy, love, and joy in the world.

You can check out all of the offerings of Lea’s World’s Smallest Post Service here:


C.J. Hirschfield has served for 17 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s oldest storybook theme park.

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