ARIPEKA - Nearly two months after losing their post office, Aripekans never expected on Halloween that the United States Postal Service would deliver a treat by reopening the facility.
But the news came Thursday when Carl Norflett, the new owner of the post office building, learned the United States Postal Service would like to have the lease finalized by Friday.
The negotiations came sooner than anyone in the community anticipated just days ago.
"The Post Office wants the keys today," Norfleet said Thursday. "It's a done deal."
Norfleet, a long-time resident who owns and leases the village general store, purchased the post office building one week after its closure.
He did so intending to lease it to the USPS if the agency would work diligently and in good faith to reopen the post office.
Before the USPS worked with Aripekans to restore the closed post office, residents, some of whom are disabled and without transportation, had to drive 15 miles to Hudson to retrieve their mail.
But Norfleet stepped forward when the previous landlord could no longer afford to rent the building to the post office when a change in the government lease caused liability insurance to spike.
After Norfleet purchased the building, those like Ty Jones, of Weeki Wachee, helped paint and renovate it. Norfleet also, dissatisfied with the vacant, lightless post, paid to have the utilities turned back on.
Anna Rock, a 43-year resident of Aripeka and retired Brooksville post office employee, has remained persistent in her correspondence with the USPS, as have other Aripekans.
"It's been a real community effort," said Norfleet.
Aripekans are striving now to have the old mailboxes returned as well, not just for historical and architectural reasons, but also so the post office can re-open sooner, and with less installation costs for both parties.
Marvin Campbell, operations programs specialist and facilities coordinator for the USPS, Suncoast District, said he has informed the maintenance department of the community's concerns to have the old mail boxes returned and installed.
"They are going to make every effort possible to return as much of the original equipment as possible," Campbell wrote in an email to Aripeka residents. "This would be great for Aripeka as it seems, as well as a cost savings to us."
For nearly two months, the sign in the post office windows read, "Closed." As of Thursday, that sign is now, "Yes!"
"If you didn't purchase this, we would have been in an awful wreck," Rock said to Norfleet on Thursday afternoon. "This will make our community whole again."