As email becomes the norm and fewer people use traditional mail, the U.S. Post Office in Westminster, Calif.’s Little Saigon neighborhood is an anomaly.
Consider it an unofficial hangout of the world’s oldest, largest, most well-established Vietnamese-American community. It’s a place where nearly 10,000 transactions still take place each month and Global Express Service recently outsold every other U.S. Post Office in the country.
"People feel like this is home," said Raymond Tran, who’s going on his 21st year at the office. "They need help and I’m here to help."
Here, hundreds of customers skip larger, closer and less-busy post offices across Southern California to connect with the Vietnamese-American community in Little Saigon.
They send care packages around the world, especially Vietnam, and across the country to their Vietnamese relatives
. They also send critical immigration paperwork.
For Tran, known for his high-pitched, infectious laugh, becoming a postal worker has been a goal since he was a teenager.
"We left for freedom," Tran said of his escape from Vietnam when he was 14. "We lost communication with my parents, my brother."
Tran spent a year in a refugee camp in Malaysia wondering if his parents, still in Vietnam, survived. He anxiously waited to hear his name during mail call, hoping for a letter from his parents.
Few letters arrived. Tran later learned the letters had been lost in the mail, and he decided then to dedicate his life to making a difference.
"I have a dream in Malaysia that one day I will be a mailman or something to deliver the mail. Everybody happy to get a piece of mail," he said.
Thirty-five years later, not losing mail remains a priority for Tran, who is married with two adult children who graduated from Southern California universities.
"Nobody helps me except here," Robert Ho, of Santa Ana, said when asked why didn’t go to a closer post office. "He helped me get my package back. The package lost in the mail was worth $500, and he got it back.”
Nearby businesses also value the unlikely hangout. Michael Vo moved his insurance business next door 20 years ago and said he has no regrets.
Tran’s supervisors also laud his performance and have filled his workplace drawers with awards for outstanding service.
"Customers value the service they get from employees at this office, especially Raymond Tran," U.S. Postal Service spokesman Richard Maher said.