Wherever Dawn Bowman is, she makes it a point to check out the local post office.
She notices the brickwork, the landscaping, the parking lot and numerous other details.
Ms. Bowman's fascination with post offices can be explained by the fact that she's in charge of post office construction for Frall Developers in Mount Airy.
The company, which owns 126 post offices in 11 states, has carved a niche for itself by building post offices and leasing them to the U.S. Postal Service.
"I can spot a flag at 20 paces," said Ms. Bowman, a vice president of Frall Developers.
The company owns post offices in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Frall began construction last week on the new Lisbon post office in Howard County. In Carroll, the Woodbine and Keymar post offices are Frall projects.
Of the 35,000 post offices across the United States, 29,000 are leased, Ms. Bowman said.
"From what I've seen, it's a better deal for the Postal Service," she said. "It's very hard to predict the growth in a particular area, and leasing gives more flexibility to do an expansion or relocate if needed."
The Postal Service finds such arrangements convenient because it doesn't have the money to purchase each post office, said Jack Stone Jr., a property manager with the Postal Service's Facilities Service Office in Columbia.
Frall Developers first became a landlord for the Postal Service in the mid-1970s, when the Woodbine post office leased a space from Frall in a shopping center owned by the company, Ms. Bowman said.
At that time, Frall's main business was residential development. However, Frall's president, James Frey, became interested in developing post offices and the company secured contracts to build some local facilities. One of the company's earliest projects was the Glenwood post office in Howard County.
Now Frall divides its business equally between residential and commercial development, which includes convenience stores.
For the new Mount Airy post office, the Postal Service selected a site at the northwest corner of Route 27 and Park Avenue, which is owned by Frall Developers.