Island's second credit union will open by year's end

Nearly three years after a community effort brought Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union to Vashon, an additional credit union will open soon.

The Shelton-based Our Community Credit Union (OCCU) plans to move into the building that Bank of America will vacate in September. Bert Fisher, the president and CEO of OCCU, said he expects to open by the end of this year. He would like to begin offering some services sooner than that to assist Bank of America customers who may want to transfer their accounts.

“There is a sense of urgency on our part,” he said.

Norm Mathews, the owner of Thriftway and the managing partner of the Vashon East Shopping Center, approached OCCU after Bank of America announced it would be leaving the island, said Clay Gleb, one of Thriftway’s managers and, as a partner in Mathews’s company, participated in bringing OCCU to Vashon.

“We felt there was still a need for another financial institution, and we felt Vashon would be better served by a small bank or credit union,” Gleb said.

Mathews learned about OCCU from a fellow Thriftway owner, who has an OCCU branch in his store in Montesano, Gleb said.

After meeting with Fisher and OCCU’s management and learning more about the credit union, Mathews and his team proceeded.

“We came to the mutual conclusion that it would be a good fit for both parties and Vashon Island,” Gleb said.

Particularly important, Gleb said, is that OCCU offers businesses services, which the Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU) does not, and will also provide safety deposit boxes, which Thriftway customers had mentioned they wanted.

CEO Fisher said that OCCU was looking to grow when they received the invitation to from Mathews.

“I think most credit unions are always looking to expand,” he said.

He noted that Vashon had not been on their radar, but said he believes the values and culture of Vashon will fit well with OCCU’s values.

Noting that Vashon already has a popular credit union, Fisher said that he believes competition is good for consumers and that PSCCU does not offer all the services that OCCU does, specifically business services.

Patte Wagner, the manager of the Vashon branch of PSCCU, said she was surprised to learn the news of a new credit union last week, but wishes the newcomers well.

“I am a big fan of credit unions. They are good for communities,” Wagner said. “I am not familiar with this particular credit union, but if they offer business accounts, that will be a good option for businesses on the island.”

Shannon Ellis-Brock, the chief operating officer at PSCCU, said that shortly after Bank of America announced its closure, Mathews contacted PSCCU to see if they would like to move in once Bank of America left. They declined, she said, because their current space serves them well and they have a good relationship with their landlords, including Donna Kellum, the owner of Frame of Mind.

Ellis-Brock, too, said businesses will likely benefit from OCCU’s arrival.

“They will serve a market that has been underserved,” she said.

OCCU has 25,000 members and $270 million in assets, according to CEO Fisher, and has branches in Shelton, McCleary, Elma and Montesano.


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