Old Town Post Box. 915 King St., Alexandria. 549-3232.

Postal boxes are about as easy to find these days as full-service gas stations. Except in Alexandria. Peek in the window of the Old Town Post Box and you'll see walls of boxes that resemble the Post Office variety. Actually, they're exactly the kind the post office uses, but they belong to Pat Peck, who runs a service that will absolutely, positively deliver your mail to your box by 9 a.m. every morning. That, she says, is about four hours earlier than the Alexandria branch of the Postal Service on a good day. Peck begins by having clients sign a form giving her the right to be their agent -- that is, to receive their mail. Clients have their mail addressed to her special box number at the Old Town post office where she picks it up at 7 or 8 a.m. each day. She then sorts it at her shop and delivers it in person -- if the customer lives or works in Old Town -- or leaves it in the post box. The boxes range from small to commercial size and can be rented for one month at a time ($10 to $25). She offers price breaks for longer leases. Peck justifies here prices, which are somewhat higher than for comparable (and scarce) Postal Service boxes, by pointing to her personal service. A custaomer can give her a call before coming over, for example, and she'll tell them if they have any mail. "In fact, I'll read people their postcards."