Credit Union opens new Middlebury branch
MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Federal Credit Union is banking on its new location on Court Square to be a big winner with customers, some of whom turned out on Monday morning to witness the official unveiling of the VFCU’s vastly improved Middlebury branch office.
The 1 Court St. location — formerly home to the Chittenden Bank (now People’s United) — gives the VFCU 4,800 square feet of space in which to serve a growing customer base. The new facility is roughly four times bigger than the VFCU’s previous location at 24 Washington St. The new headquarters also features a veritable sea of on-site parking compared to the eight dedicated spaces at the Washington Street location.
“It’s just so much more convenient,” said VFCU President and CEO Bernie Isabelle. “We have received rave reviews from our membership.”
It was last year that VFCU administrators asked the bank’s board of directors to consider acquisition and renovation of the 1 Court St. property to serve as the new Middlebury headquarters. The former Chittenden Bank building had stood idle for around six years, during which it was checked out by several potential suitors — including the town of Middlebury, which briefly flirted with transforming the property into a new municipal building.
Meanwhile, the VFCU had also been looking to widen its Middlebury horizons. The credit union arrived in Middlebury in 1992, operating out of rented space in the Marble Works complex before moving to its 1,200-square-foot location at 24 Washington St. back in 2001.
Vermont Federal Credit Union seriously considered buying the 1 Court St. building last fall.
“This was a well-established branch,” Isabelle said. “We just saw the potential for more growth. We survey our members periodically, and we could tell from the surveys that (customers) were really yearning for a drive-up facility and better parking. This provided us with a better opportunity.”
The VFCU’s board of directors ultimately gave its blessing and the purchase, for $850,000, became official this past Jan. 23.
Then the real work began, according to Tom Crapo, VCFU’s senior vice president of operations.
“This building was completely gutted and renovated,” Crapo said. “We found some concerns and we were able to resolve them. Today, we have a beautiful building in the town of Middlebury on the green.”
That building opened for business on Oct. 15.
“For me, the biggest thrill was watching members come in and go to their favorite employee and have the employee hug them, smile and look at this place,” Crapo said. “The whole package has been great to see unfold. It has been a community effort.”
Crapo said seven employees will continue to staff the VFCU Middlebury branch. There is ample space to accommodate future, additional hires. Two surplus offices in the building are currently being leased out, according to Isabelle.
“At some future time we will utilize those offices, but we don’t envision that for a while,” Isabelle said. “It is better to be in a situation where you have too much room, so we can always grow into it.”
There are no plans right now to conduct banking operations in the basement level of the building, which has limited access and will for now be used for storage.
Isabelle, during his remarks at Monday’s opening, credited the town of Middlebury and its director of planning and zoning, Ted Dunakin, for helping VCFU navigate through the permitting process en route to a successful project.
“The town of Middlebury has epitomized the business-friendly municipality concept,” Isabelle said, adding Dunakin worked with bank officials in a collaborative manner to make for a seamless process.
Isabelle said the VFCU has no short-term plans to add another branch in Addison County; it is content, for now, with its Middlebury and Vergennes locations. The VFCU currently has a total of seven branches in the state.
“Right now, our growing pains are more in Chittenden County,” Isabelle said. “We will try to address that at some point.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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