Lucas interviews Karl at Postal Annex of Bozeman, MT for the Foust Law Small Business of the Month feature

Lucas:               Yeah. All right. Hey, I'm with... Karl, how do you say your last name?

Karl Baer:          Bear, like the animal.

Lucas:               All right, Karl. I'm with Karl Baer of the PostalAnnex. He owns and operates two, not one, but two PostalAnnexes here in Bozeman. One on the Southeast side of town and one on the Northwest part of town. Is that right?

Karl Baer:          Yeah. On the corner, kind of by Museum of the Rockies and then now a new one off Baxter.

Lucas:               Well, congratulations on your second store. That probably seems like you need to replicate yourself between those two businesses some days.

Karl Baer:          I wish I could. Staffing...

Lucas:               Well, that's great.

Karl Baer:          I don't know that you can.

Lucas:               Hey Karl, the PostalAnnex is our Business of the Month. Personally, we use your business all the time, the location near the Museum of the Rockies, and it's been fantastic. Your staff's been great and we're thrilled to work with you, but tell us a little bit about yourself. I ask this question of everybody jurors included, but setting your faith and your family aside, those two important things. What's the passion in your life, Karl? What gets you out of bed besides the PostalAnnex?

Karl Baer:          Well, I'm really glad that you had that question in there because it is kind of formative to the reason that I'm in business. I'm not a small business owner to necessarily make a bunch of money, but rather to find a way to interact with my community and to support my community. So I love all of the people that I get to meet through my store and then trying to find ways to help my community also on the side.

Lucas:               Well, what are the other things to do besides running the PostalAnnex? What other kinds of things for community involvement are you into?

Karl Baer:          We always sponsor the Run For Your Life with the Crisis Center and we have done drives in the past for the Warming Center. I personally kind of feel like we are judged by the way we treat our least fortunate. So our indigent, our homeless, our drug addicted are kind of the populations that I like to try and support.

Lucas:               That's great and let's talk a little bit. So, you actually have PostalAnnex sponsors those organizations, or how do you help out with... The Run For Your Life is a new one that I hadn't heard of yet. I found it very interesting,

Karl Baer:          Run For Your Life is a fun run. It's just a 5K that the Crisis Center puts on every fall. And we have tried to give them as much money as we can as a fledgling organization. So we do sponsor it as PostalAnnex and then I also, the last couple of years have paid for the entries for anyone who wants to run so long as they wear a banana costume.

Lucas:               Hey. That's so cool. How many takers have you had? How many bananas?

Karl Baer:          I think our biggest bunch was like 11.

Lucas:               I like the term bunch too. That's great.

Karl Baer:          Yeah. Yeah. It was funny. It, you never know it's going to either be like sunny and 65 or rainy hot mess, kind of like today and the year that we had 11, everybody appreciated the banana costumes because it was really messy out.

Lucas:               Nice.

Karl Baer:          It was rainy and snowy. Yeah.

Lucas:               So tell us a little bit about yourself. How'd you end up in Bozeman? Did you grow up here or are you transplant how'd you end up at Bozeman?

Karl Baer:          I am originally from Wisconsin. After being there for 18 years and not having experienced much else, I needed to get out. So I went to college in Olympia, Washington at the Evergreen State College. I left Wisconsin, it was like the most liberal hippie I'd ever met and I finished a really liberal college being far more conservative. So after college, I've kind of been looking for someplace in the middle and Bozeman, both literally and figuratively tends to be in the middle of between Seattle area and my Midwest roots.

Lucas:               Well, good, good. So how long have you been in Bozeman now?

Karl Baer:          We're going into year eight. I believe August we'll be starting our ninth year here in town. This location is starting its eighth year.

Lucas:               Well, that's great. And so did you start the PostalAnnex right when you moved to Bozeman or did it take a little while? You mentioned when we talked before that you were at the UPS store for awhile.

Karl Baer:          Yeah, no. It was all part of the process. My fiance and I were looking to start a family and establish ourselves somewhere. And as everybody in town knows Bozeman has a decent cost of living associated with it. And at the time, eight years ago, I saw a lot of growth potential, and there was an underserved need for a small business center like myself. So we moved here with the intention of starting a PostalAnnex.

Lucas:               Well, great. No, that's super. And so how did you decide to start that? What kind of decision making, had you seen the program that they had other locations, or how'd you come about that? Karl?

Karl Baer:          Yeah. I kind of fell into it. I graduated in 2006 from college and did a couple of years in the nonprofit sector because that is where my graduate degree is in. And then 2009, the bottom fell out of the stock market and the funding for a lot of nonprofit operations dried up. I found myself without a job for most of a year and ended up finding work with a friend's father at his UPS store in the Portland area. Three years later, I was managing his store. And then I did that for most of my twenties and just found that I'm kind of a natural fit personality wise with the business.

Lucas:               Well, great. What do you like most about this type of business Karl? What do you like most about running the PostalAnnex?

Karl Baer:          The people. I love... It's the community is what I started by saying, "But a community is just a series of really unique individuals." And Bozeman, we have a lot of them and by and large, they're all really nice and really interesting. So I love the connections that I meet and make across the counter.

Lucas:               Oh, that's great. So now you started a second PostalAnnex. How long ago did you start the second location?

Karl Baer:          Just a couple of weeks ago, we have been doing a lot more large package, freight type shipments out of our original location and they don't fit very well. I only have normal 36 inch wide doors and lots of retail displays. So trying to handle grandfather clocks and people's dressers and other large items like that. I was looking for some more space and I knew the location has a full warehouse.

Lucas:               So another question I have for you is this, I asked this of all folks because this was such a big impact on most everyone's lives. How did the pandemic affect you and your business? And how did you adjust to it?

Karl Baer:          I may be one of the few people that said that it did not affect my life all that much. It affected our business operations for sure. We were closed for a week, right at the beginning as people were trying to figure out what was what, and then I have had to institute all of the masking and cleaning regimens, but we are considered an essential service. And especially with the pandemic, people have been shipping more and doing a lot more buying and selling homes or cashing out retirement funds, things that need notarizations. So our business has kind of ticked right along and in fact increased. We had our best year on record in 2020, and that's part of why we launched into our second location in 2021.

Lucas:               Well, congratulations. That's fantastic, that's great to hear that you took what taking lemons and making them into lemonade kind of thing you had going on. That's good.

Karl Baer:          Yeah. I've got two small kids at home, so no matter what happens at 7:00 AM they need to be fed and at 7:00 PM they need to be put to bed. So the world marches on regardless of whether we have a pandemic going on.

Lucas:               Hey Karl, thanks a ton for being our Business of the Month. We really appreciate it and I'm sure I'll see you at the store soon. So thanks a lot.

Karl Baer:          Thank you. I really appreciate your continued business. It means a lot to us for being a part of our community.

Lucas:               Hey, thanks a ton. I appreciate it, Karl. Thanks.

Karl Baer:          Bye.