Is Montclair losing its post office? This is the question David Sarber posed in a recent email. Even though he no longer owns a camera shop next door, Sarber has seen what he calls "a subtle but steady" decline in services at our village postal branch.

"First the vending machine that dispensed stamps was removed, making us wait in line for one of the two people that worked the counter," he wrote, noting that there used to be three counter agents.

Then he added that supplies seem to be dwindling -- things like priority shipping boxes and prestamped postcards. And the lobby scale.

Sarber, like others, is concerned that the popular Montclair branch might be on the chopping block. But USPS media rep Gus Ruiz says no.

"We're not closing it, I can tell you that," Ruiz said in a phone conversation last week.

He said the stamp machines were pulled out of all the branches because they couldn't get the parts to repair them. Branches with high volumes got self-service automated kiosks that dispense stamps and other goodies. But not Montclair.

"Probably not enough traffic to warrant it," he said. "A lot of it has to do with retail studies to determine customer traffic."

So, while Sarber and others may be worried about the future of our Village branch, Ruiz says it's not slated to close. Still, I can't help but think of the old saying. Use it or lose it.


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Crime beat: Here's a story you don't hear every day. Oakland Police made quick work of finding a stolen Montclair vehicle recently. Reader Marianne Balin says her old Honda CRV was missing from the driveway when she woke up one morning, so she called police.

"A technician came, took the report, and less than 45 minutes later OPD Officers Ko and Ly called," she writes.

They'd found the car intact, with the engine still warm, in East Oakland. Apparently, thugs used the Honda in the commission of several vehicle break-ins, leaving "debris from other people's lives" in Balin's car. She says -- from now on -- she's parking in her garage.

Email bag: Reader Dennis Duffy writes that a College Avenue institution -- The Alta Bates Thrift Shop -- is closing July 3. He credits the volunteers with raising more than $4 million in the 30-plus years that the shop has been open. The building will reportedly be on the market soon.

Meanwhile, neighbor Jeff Diamond takes exception with my recent rant about retsina, saying the selection of Greek wines he'll pour at Farmstead Cheeses and Wines this week are delicious. After trying the Alpha Estate Axia Sauvignon Blanc (one of the choices) -- I agree. Five of Diamond's favorites are on the $1 tasting menu this Friday through Sunday -- with all of June's proceeds going to Montera Middle School.

Around town: Tonight's First Friday Art Murmur is going to be a blast. It falls on the opening night of East Bay Open Studios, and 20 artists will show their work at Uptown Body and Fender. Giovanna Tanzillo and Lisandro Allende donate the use of their body repair shop for a number of fundraisers, and 20 percent of Friday night's proceeds will go to charity. There'll also be music by live, local musicians throughout the evening and for the next two weekends. See www.uptownopenstudios.com for more information.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.

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