By Sue Moore
A few weeks ago, rumors were swirling at the coffee clutch that PNC Bank was closing its Vicksburg branch. Turns out they were true, according to the bank’s spokesperson, Marcey Zwiebel. This action leaves a gaping hole in downtown Vicksburg with the building going up for sale as soon as the official closing takes place on May 15.
Zwiebel claims there are plenty of other PNC branches nearby to serve the area with the Vicksburg business being transferred to the Lake Center branch at Portage Road and Centre Street. “The evolution of branch banking was an important part of this decision,” Zwiebel said. “We are undergoing branch consolidation in these changing times and they involve tough decisions. The usage in Vicksburg was down, with many of our Vicksburg customers already banking at our other branches. The impact on the community is part of the consideration, but it isn’t the only part of the equation. We have a network of ATMs at 300 Speedway locations across the state and in 7-Elevens to serve customers.”
She indicated that all customers were notified via letters mailed on Friday, Feb. 14. This writer still hasn’t received any notification even though I have a checking account there and a safe deposit box. In fact, I have been a bank customer with whatever the title was on the front door in the building since I was a teenager, long ago.
Having a strong bank presence in any community is important to its strength and quality of life. It’s important to have a good financial institution as a stand-up member of the community. Let’s hope that Kalamazoo County State Bank will move to fill this gap.
In the meantime, Lynette Wolthuis, who has worked as a teller and jack of all trades, will be retiring after 38 years as a teller and lead teller who knew the customers by name. The other personnel were promised new opportunities at PNC locations.
Banking isn’t what it used to be when the likes of Jim Oswalt in Vicksburg and Merle Highland in Schoolcraft were running the show. You could count on personal attention to your financial needs. I remember Highland telling me he couldn’t in all good conscience give me a loan to buy a business in 1982 because the interest rates were so usurious at 15 to 16 percent at that time. He did me a favor. With these two at the helm, it was all about serving the community. They would counsel their customers so they wouldn’t get in too deep and yet loan the money needed to keep businesses going in both good and bad times.
When the Farmers State Bank failed in Vicksburg during the Depression, shareholders were on the block to make good on all of the savings and checking accounts to see that they got their money back. It wasn’t easy, but that was the nature of banking back then.