RALEIGH — Brenda Kay Burke is much more than just the owner of The Mail Box Plus. She is the receptionist, cleaning lady, mail sorter, and a patient listener for clients who frequent the mail service business on Six Forks Road.
Burke has been playing those roles for nearly 30 years at her store thats centered on renting street-address mailboxes and related services.
Burke serves as a concierge of sorts for about 200 customers, calling them when they get mail, telling them what the package looks like and who its from. If customers have trouble walking, she meets them at their car. If they are having a bad day, shell fill out their shipping forms.
That customer service is the heart of The Mail Box Plus, Burke said. Customers include small-business owners who work out of their home, people who travel or dont want packages left at their doorstep, and people who use services such as UPS and FedEx or have other mail that cant be delivered to a U.S. post office box.
Burke reluctantly opened The Mail Box Plus on Nov. 4, 1983.
After 14 years of being a stay-at-home mom for her two daughters, Burke was urged by her husband to start a small business. She got the idea for the mailbox company after seeing a woman on television talk about a California business that rented mailboxes with a street address.
I thought I could get in here, get it going, and then hire somebody to do it, said Burke. But she quickly learned that she needed to stay because nobody will do it like you do it.
Over the years, Burke added and then subtracted options, such as secretarial and answering services. She set up a website about 15 years ago, but doesnt update it or use email.
The mailboxes are rented for six-month or one-year periods, and are accessible to customers 24-hours a day. They are available in three sizes and start at $156 for six months. Other services include gift-wrapping, notarizing documents, packaging and mailing parcels and making copies.
Burke has used traditional advertising channels, such as newspaper and radio spots, to raise awareness about her business, but the most effective customer driver has been word-of-mouth referrals from clients inside and outside of the surrounding business complex, Twin Forks Office Park.
People know if they bring it to me, I am going to do it right, Burke said.
Over the years, her business has served as a support system that helped her through a divorce process that lasted about 12 years and ended in 2009. As her attorney and living expenses increased, her payroll and other business extras decreased. At one time, she had up to four employees, but started doing all the work herself with help from her daughters.
Customers have it good, she said, but Burke enjoys the opportunity to help others.
They dont get anywhere near what I get, she said.
Catherine Campbell and her husband started using The Mail Box Plus about 20 years ago, when they began to lease a mailbox after they started traveling a lot on their sailboat. Burke would hold the couples mail and coordinate with them so it could be forwarded to their next destination. The couple is no longer sailing, but Campbell still uses the service because she is spoiled by the convenience.
Its all just great customer service, that is what its all about, Campbell said.