Pickett kicks back with packing peanuts at the Postman on MLK Jr. Way in the Central District.

Image: Brandon Hill

As the U.S. Postal Service branch shut the doors of its Central District location last January, a new shop called the Postman was building a clientele a few blocks away. Package shipping, mailbox rentals, notary services, wrapping paper: Even in the age of Amazon—especially in the age of Amazon—physical mail is no relic. It’s online returns, Christmas presents, a permanent address for the community. D’Vonne Pickett Jr. named his storefront for his late great-grandfather Jacques Chappell, a CD mail carrier who worked a postal route for 37 years. The entrepreneurial Pickett, along with his high school sweetheart turned wife and business partner, KeAnna, had dreamed about opening a business since his days playing point guard for Rainier Beach High School and Seattle University. They would provide “something that people need and not want.” As the Postman’s second holiday season and its attendant flurry of deliveries descend, Pickett is already planning two more locations with space for cafes. He envisions gathering places with as much personal touch as you’d expect from a longtime mail carrier. “When we started out, we wanted to make money for us, you know—but there was a real, bigger feeling behind keeping communities connected.” AW

I grew up on 35th and Olive. I remember block parties, knowing your neighbor, leaving your door unlocked. We were all family; you didn’t have to be blood to be family.

Our kids have been a part of the shop since we opened. Our son Xavier, 15 weeks, he’s known as the shop baby.

Women come in and say ‘I wish there was jobs where I could bring my kids.’ We joke about how we should hire women with their babies. It’s just an idea.

Some customers don’t really understand what all goes into shipping. If you want something overnight from here to New York, it touches 10 hands, probably, before it gets there.

I just like the holidays, man. It’s my birthday around that time, and I feel like a lot of people are just in a good space. The holidays is like our bread and butter—for us it’s kind of like the championship.

My great-grandfather was a great example of how hard work pays off and what it’s like to be the man of a whole family and their support system.

He taught me slow and steady. I used to think that he and my great-grandmother, their life was boring. But it gave me balance.

I tell people, I like to be heavy and not airy. People that are heavier earn their keep; you say something, you walk it. And people that are airy, they have this entitlement that they haven’t earned.

When you get money, you’re able to be more yourself. Some people say you change, but I feel like you evolve.

I like to be direct with my kids: Daddy’s not doing this just for you. I definitely feel like it’s a legacy, like for five generations, or seven generations, creating a trail where our family is not in poverty.

I get a lot of credit, but I feel like my wife is just as important. I’m the broad-strokes, big-picture guy. She’s the fine detail and all the notes and the research. It’s like a yin and yang.

I have a clothing line too. Even though I come from hip-hop culture and all that, I’m very much a mixed bag of experiences. I know so many different communities.

I’ve had two [tattoo] sleeves since I was 16. I’ve always been one to blaze my own trail. I just feel like I’m built for it.

That’s what I bring to the community, being, like, authentic and reminding people that we all are one in the end.

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