By Diana Colson
Jack and Hanna Gatkiewicz are the owners of MAIL PACK CENTER OF SIESTA KEY. Their motto of their business is BE GOOD TO YOURSELF – TRAVEL LIGHT.
The couple originally came from Krakow, Poland, one of that nation’s most historic and largest cities. Cited by UNESCO as unique among Europe’s beautiful cities, Krakow has for centuries been a center of Polish academic, cultural, economic and artistic life.
The Gatkiewicz’s left this remarkable city to come to America in 1981. Their eldest son, Philip, was born in Krakow, while their youngest son, Peter, was born in the USA.
Once settled in Chicago, the family escaped that city’s fierce winters by vacationing in Clearwater Beach. In 1993, they were drawn to Sarasota and purchased a condo on the mainland. The original plan was to use this condo in the summer and rent it in the winter. Hanna, however, soon developed other plans. “My wife refused to come back to Chicago,” says Jack, with a grin. “We put the kids in school in Sarasota. It took me two years of going back and forth to sell the Chicago house.”
In 1997, Jack and Hanna opened MAIL PACK CENTER OF SIESTA KEY in the Southbridge Mall at the south end of the Key. At the time, many of these types of stores were opening in Florida. That was because more and more “Snowbirds” were moving here and shipping their furniture and belongings. The current of goods also went in both directions as grandparents sent gifts back to faraway kids.
Before long MAIL PACK CENTER OF SIESTA KEY was flourishing, and the Gatkiewicz’s were handling packages, large and small, sent by UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Post Office. The store became a FedEx Authorized ShipCenter and a UPS Authorized Shipping Outlet, insuring the latest pick-ups for time-sensitive deadlines.
The Gatkiewicz’s were delighted with our Sarasota schools. Both sons attended Riverview, where
Peter took up the Tuba and Sousaphone, and marched with the Kiltie Band. After graduation, Phil helped out for a while at MAIL PACK CENTER before moving along to Pennsylvania where he now works in the main office of IKEA. Phil is the father of the Gatkiewicz’s treasured granddaughter, Milla, now 8, while Peter now works with his parents at their Siesta Key shop.
The couple is proud of MAIL PACK CENTER. Says Jack,“In the course of 18 years, we have met many wonderful people here at the store. Interesting people: musicians, actors, business people, sports people—they all come to our shop. We even did shipping for a 5-star General!”
Besides shipping and packing, the store provides notary service, internet services, WIFI, computer-time rental, scanning, forwarding services and mail box rental. They do photocopies, scan & e-mail, crating, laminating, sell postage stamps, and provide fax service. For Do-It-Yourself customers, they carry a complete line of packaging materials, including shipping boxes in dozens of sizes, photo mailers, envelopes, mailing tubes, packaging tapes, and cushioning materials.
Large items are given custom handling, such as the provision of blanket wrap or custom cartons and crating. Besides handling non-breakable items, MAIL PACK CENTER OF SIESTA KEY specializes in the shipment of antiques, artwork, electronics, crystal, china and porcelain. (Recently the Gatkiewicz’s packed and shipped out a large, antique hurdy-gurdy. The fragile stringed instrument was sent to Germany, where it arrived in perfect condition.)
When asked how shipping has changed over the years, Jack said: “There is no surface mail any more. The coming thing is inexpensive international shipping.”
Recently, MAIL PACK CENTER began dealing with a new company, POLONEZ PARCEL SERVICE out of Massachusetts, a business owned by people of Polish decent. Says Jack, “They accept very big boxes, and even things like cars. They come here about once every two weeks with a big truck and pick up things from us that are going to countries in the European Union.” Goods are trucked to Massachusetts and then shipped by boat or air to Poland. After going through Polish customs, goods are then sent on to various European countries. “It is very inexpensive compared to other ways of shipping: $2 per pound for shipping by sea, a little more for shipping by air.”
Jack and Hanna return to Krakow every couple of years to visit family. Says, Jack, “We are lucky to live in two nice places in the world: Sarasota and Krakow.”
The Gatkiewicz’s would be happy to serve as your personal packers, so call or stop by for a free estimate. The shop also gladly accepts clean packing ‘peanuts” and rigid formed Styrofoam pieces for recycling.
MAIL PACK CENTER OF SIESTA KEY is part of the Neighborhood Postal Center Network, a group of 3,000 mail and parcel centers serving the USA. Located at 6547 Midnight Pass Road, the shop is open on Monday-Friday from 9 to 5:30, and on Saturday from 9-2. Their phone number is 941-346-3303, and their website is www.mailpackcenter.com.