When longtime South End letter carrier Chris Kostaras retired last month after 32.5 years, he found it hard to leave
That’s because his office for three decades has been the streets of the South End, the very place he also grew up as a kid.
“I always said when I’m at work and I’m outside, that’s my office and everyone you see is in my office,” he said. “You get to know everyone. The South End is a very unique community and it’s been an honor to work here. I’ve seen people here have children and then I saw their children have children. You see people every day and get to know them over 32 years. I had one woman who gave me a Christmas card when she was a child. Not too long ago, her child came out and gave me a Christmas card. The South End is so unique. I don’t care if you go to California or New York, you’ll never get a place like the South End.”
And Kostaras would know.
Over three decades, he has become a neighborhood icon and has been immortalized in newspapers, on social media and – most often – in conversations on one of the street benches where he took his breaks along the route.
He still lives in the neighborhood as well, and said he would continue to be around.
Last Friday, Union Park Neighborhood Association President Jamie Fox announced that they were honoring Kostaras and his compatriot, South End letter carrier Joe Giordano – who joined Kostaras in the South End about 10 years ago.
Both were humbled by the award, but Kostaras was certainly singled out due to the fact he had retired.
“To get all the invites out, I walked up and down every single brownstone step in the neighborhood and came home and slept 72 hours,” joked Fox. “I now fully appreciate what these guys do every day.”
Kostaras has been in the neighborhood all his life, he said.
He grew up on Shawmut Avenue and lived above the old Franklin Café. He said things look the same at times, but certainly the neighborhood has a little more shine now than then.
“The streets look the same, but the cars are different,” he said jokingly. “Washington Street is very different because you had the old elevated train back then. When I was growing up, property in the area wasn’t as expensive and the City of Boston had a program where you could buy a vacant building for $1. You had five years to fix it up and then you could sell it.”
In the end, Kostaras and Giordano told neighbors it was all about the relationships they have built at work. It isn’t just a job, they said, but a community.
“I’ve spent the last 32 years delivering mail in the South End and I’ve made so many friends along the way,” said Kostaras. “You resident made it so easy for us to come to our outside office and do what we do.”