Alan Baldwin was all set to retire from a 30-year banking career in Pacific, Mo., when he found a unique opportunity with a competitor bank. A little more than a year later, Baldwin finds himself re-energized in the role of executive vice president of First State Community Bank, headquartered in Farmington, Mo., greeting customers and giving tours of the historical décor featured in the bank’s newly-opened branch following a complete $1.5 million renovation of a former grocery store in the heart of downtown.
“I feel like a tour guide sometimes. I get to enhance my stories and knowledge,” he said of customers who come in to view historical photos and a big wall mural of the town’s 1870s-era railroad depot. The old rail line is behind the bank. The reworked building façade and interior of the 4,000-square-foot branch are designed to look historic, not new. The total size of the building is 8,000 square feet, a quarter of which has been leased to a local accountant which provides “a very nice combo of services and an opportunity to cross-sell,” said Dan Combs, senior vice president and facilities manager for FSCB’s 50 offices across Missouri. The bank’s municipal lending and specialty office is expected to take up remaining space.
“We told the architect we wanted to keep a downtown theme. This is a very vibrant downtown compared to some. It seemed like a natural fit,” Combs said. Pacific has an active community partnership of businesses, and a Main Street connection offers grants in support of downtown revitalization.
“We kept the historical flavor to the building, but added a drive-through on the side,” Combs said. One wider lane of the drive-thru was built to accommodate future installation of an interactive teller machine, which is in the bank’s long-term plans. The lobby has a teller pod, the fourth FSCB branch to have one, Combs said. Teller pods with cash-recycling are seen as an efficiency to increase transactions, which have stayed the same while the bank’s accounts have grown 30 or 40 percent.
Another attractive feature of the bank is a community conference room space for about 60 people. A separate entryway and a joint set of bathrooms provide easy access for daytime or after-hours use.
A ladies “cards and Cardinals” group looks forward to their monthly gathering to play cards and watch baseball on the community room’s big-screen television, Baldwin said. A kitchenette and free Wi-Fi are attractive features for non-profit groups that have no other place to meet.
Baldwin joined FSCB in December 2017 after years with a competitor bank, where he’d been both president and a director. Instead of retiring, Baldwin joined FSCB to lead its effort to renovate an old grocery store for its new branch in the rural town of 7,200 people.
FSCB had first given “serious consideration” to a property vacated by Bank of America, which had been the largest downtown banking presence since 1975. “You’ve got to go downtown, no question about it. The downtown is the cornerstone of any community,” Baldwin advised his new employer.
Ultimately, the bank decided the former BofA space was not set up for the kind of contemporary banking experience it desired, Combs said. But the former grocery store space had been vacant, and offered a clean slate, he said. While renovation was underway, the bank operated for a year out of a temporary building set up on the premises.
“The response has been unbelievable,” said Baldwin, who is happy being the door greeter and bringing in business. One customer segment is the older population, people who may not have transportation to get to the outskirts of town. A retired English teacher in town, who was a former manager of the grocery store that used to be in the building, is a bank customer.
“We’ve bought a lot of banks over the years,” Combs said. “We had a local banker [in Baldwin] who was ready to make a change. We decided to make that change.”
“It’s really paying dividends, building our franchise,” Baldwin said of the experience.