Celebrating 26 years in business, the Mail Center USA continues to stand out for its outstanding customer service and the renowned personal touch of its owner, Gail Ivie.
By: Jessica Dusek
Photos by: Paul Marshall
“She can remember the name of customers from five years ago,” describes Russell Ivie with an endearing voice of his wife, Gail Ivie’s, Corpus Christi business, Mail Center USA. She laughs, “Now, don’t say that – I’m getting older.”
The small business owner celebrates her business’ 26th anniversary this October. Friendly customer service and her personal touch has kept customers – and even their children – coming back to her store as she recalls her many years in business. Customer loyalty remains strong and shapes perspective of the Mail Center’s customer service in the community.
Located on Alameda, just a few blocks from Corpus Christi’s Oceanfront Drive, Gail Ivie has learned a thing or two about the industry – and her customers. This year, the Mail Center has expanded their inventory, carrying vibrant and textured stationery, and offering lines from top designers such as Crane, William Arthur, Vera Wang, Checkerboard and many others. You can get something for basic needs or your most memorable events.
Over the years, Ivie had already expanded the Mail Center’s services, adding an esthetic side to their shipping specialty. “I got into something that others didn’t do, and that was gift wrap,” she explains. “All professionally hand-tied bows – that was a niche I got into.” The personal touch added to her reputation as a local shipping business that set itself apart from other shipping companies, and provided an experience-based visit for customers.
Initially, her business began as a mail-servicing center. What made her business different from competitors was her attention to detail and the needs of her customers. She got her start in the printing industry while working in the university system.
In 1986, she and her husband decided to make a career- and life-changing move. Russell, a helicopter pilot, took a leave of absence from his company, and Gail resigned her position at the university and purchased a small commercial franchise printing company called Minuteman Press.
She moved to San Antonio to open their new company and did her training for the printing industry in New York. Russell returned to his love of flying after one-and-a-half years of helping Gail get things off to a good start. In late 1989, Russell was transferred to Corpus Christi, so he and Gail decided to sell the printing company, and they opened the Mail Center in 1990.
Ivie was successful transitioning with the new business component, as it complemented her existing operation. “I was able to reactivate old accounts, and began opening new accounts.”
Providing a place in her store for customers to sit down and review stationery options allows the customer to relax and review examples and product options. “I prefer that the customer gets to feel the quality of the paper,” explains Gail of her extended stationery selection. “These days, a lot of customers are ordering online, and sometimes it doesn’t meet their expectations.”
Reputation and customer care
Bright-faced and energetic employees reinforce the customer service value. Throughout the past 18 years, Gail’s passion as a young women’s kickball coach has helped her recruit her employees. This uniquely made 80 percent of current and former young women kickball players – her daughter, along with her many kickball-centric staff members.
“I’ve seen them come and go, some having stayed as long as 10 years,” Russell says. “Their personalities are very friendly and outgoing. This is no typical shipping and packing business. It’s considerably different – a much more pleasant, inviting atmosphere.”
Industry knowledge and environment set the tone for Corpus patrons, and those visiting from surrounding areas. Although the business engages in radio and magazine advertisements, 75 percent of their business is word-of-mouth and referral-based. New inventory additions include a new customer base pulling in Corpus’ local doctors, lawyers, brides-to-be, college graduates, church camp coordinators and those celebrating special occasions and holidays. Gail says of her customers: “We can truly call them friends.”
Mail Center USA extends a multitude of suppliers and lines, and Gail Ivie can customize them and place special orders. For more information or to learn about upcoming events, swing by the Mail Center, or visit the company online at www.mailctrusa.com or via Facebook. You may also contact Ivie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.