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New credit union to open in former bank location

Vashon’s second credit union is set to open in the former home of Bank of America later this month.

The Shelton-based Our Community Credit Union (OCCU) has renovated the building and has hired four islanders to staff the new office, according to Daris Devaney, an OCCU spokeswoman. The branch will open Jan. 27 and is a full-service financial institution, Devaney said, offering  loans, credit cards, checking accounts, businesses services and more.

“I think we are going to meet a lot of the island’s financial needs,” she said.

To serve as the branch manager, OCCU hired Margi Amstrup, who has worked at Bank of America, US Bank and Northwest Bank, Devaney said. Carole Sussman, who will be the assistant branch manager, is the only employee from Bank of America who chose to apply for a position at the credit union, and Kirsten Bachant and Jacquie Perry will be member service representatives.

OCCU first announced its plans to expand to Vashon last summer, after Bank of America gave notice it would leave the island after 35 years of service. Norm Mathews, the owner of Thriftway and the managing partner of Vashon East Shopping Center, where the bank was located, approached OCCU representatives because he felt that there was still a need for a financial institution in that building, Clay Gleb, one of Mathews’ associates, said at the time.

Bert Fisher, the president and CEO of OCCU, said last July that he hoped the new branch would open before the end of the year. Last week, however, Devaney said that timeline had proved too optimistic, particularly since OCCU did not have access to the building until Nov. 1, when Bank of America’s lease expired.

OCCU will be the second credit union to open on the island within three years’ time, but parties close to the situation say that there should be enough business to go around.

“There’s absolutely room for both,” Devaney said. “It will be nice to have both.”

Devaney said she expects that Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU) likely has a loyal membership, but that is not a concern for OCCU.

“Credit Unions have co-existed for a long, long time,” she said.

She added that credit unions work together in many ways, and that could happen on Vashon as well.

At PSCCU, branch manager Patte Wagner said OCCU’s opening here is a sign of the times, as people have grown tired of large banks and are seeking not-for-profit financial institutions and personalized financial services.

Bank of America’s Vashon branch closed in September. At the time, Bank  of America had announced it would cut 12 percent of its branches nationwide in the next few years, and a bank spokeswoman said that there had been a decline in transactions at the island branch. There is now a Bank of America ATM across the street from the post office.

“I love it that credit unions are expanding across the United States,” Wagner said. “It’s reflective of a movement.”

Wagner also said that because PSCCU doesn’t currently offer commercial accounts, OCCU’s opening may fill that need.

“It’s a good opportunity for businesses,” Wagner said.

Rex Stratton, an island attorney who was active in the group that worked to bring PSCCU to the island a few years ago, said he, too, believes there is room for both businesses. He noted that since PSCCU does not offer business services, OCCU will take pressure off of it to offer those services before it is ready to do so.

“My position is competition is good,” Stratton said. “Credit unions are better for Vashon than banks. It’s a welcome addition to the community.”

OCCU, located in the Thriftway parking lot, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:35 p.m. Monday though Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

OCCU currently has 25,000 members and $280 million in assets. It operates branches in Shelton, Union, McCleary, Elma and Montesano. Membership is open to anyone living, working or attending school in Washington state.

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