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Two new branches join Northampton banking scene

  • Anna Zadworny, branch manager of Greenfield Savings Bank on King Street in Northampton Tuesday, Feb. 5.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Greenfield Savings Bank at 325 King Street in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • PeoplesBank construction at 300 King Street in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • PeoplesBank construction at 300 King Street in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • PeoplesBank construction at 300 King Street in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

— If banks are a sign of a vibrant commercial sector, King Street is on the rise. Two new bank branches are opening up between Main Street and Route 91, a mile and a half stretch that already boasts eight banks.

Greenfield Savings Bank opened its first branch in Northampton at 325 King St. in December, and PeoplesBank is constructing its first branch in the city, which is set to open a few lots down the street at 300 King St. this summer. Both banks are independent and based in western Massachusetts.

The new branches are joining an already crowded scene. John F. Heaps, Jr., president of Florence Savings Bank, believes they will have trouble establishing themselves.

“It’s always tougher to come into a new market that’s over banked,” said Heaps. “It makes it much more difficult for any new bank opening up.”

According to the latest numbers available from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the United States has an average of 3,500 residents per bank office.

Northampton has about one bank for every 2,000 residents, according to Heaps, comparing those figures to Agawam, where there are 4,700 residents per bank branch.

Still, he says he doesn’t mind competition. “We welcome anybody that wants to come into this market place and we wish them the best,” he said.

Sheila Goodwin, senior vice-president for retail at PeoplesBank is not concerned. “I would hesitate to say that Northampton is over banked,” said Goodwin. “Each bank offers unique benefits to the consumers in Northampton.”

Denise Coyne, executive vice-president at Greenfield Savings Bank, also thinks Northampton can support additional banks.

She said Greenfield Savings Bank has an advantage because it already does business with many Northampton residents, and because there is demand for the commercial and trust services it offers.

“Competition is good for banking,” said Coyne. “It makes us all the best we can be.”

Greenfield Savings Bank — founded in 1869 in the town it takes its name from — expanded outside of Franklin County to Amherst 10 years ago. Bank leadership decided to come to Northampton because they saw it a natural location for expansion, according to Rebecca Caplice, president and CEO of the bank.

Although this is the bank’s first branch in Northampton, Caplice said the bank already had many Northampton-based customers at its other branches. “We were finding we were having more and more customers that are on the other side of the river,” said Caplice.

She said another reason behind the expansion to Northampton is that it is easier to attract new clients in college towns like Amherst and Northampton than it is in Greenfield, which has a more stable population.

“When people are coming and going, you’ve got more new people making banking decisions,” said Caplice.

The office has five full-time employees, she said. Some came from other Greenfield Savings Bank locations, while others are new hires for the Northampton branch, she said.

Caplice anticipates it will take close to two years for the bank to cover costs associated with the expansion. Meantime, the reception from the community, has been warm.

“I was amazed at how many people came to our grand opening,” said Caplice. “Everybody we had who was already a customer would be saying, ‘it’s about time.’”

PeoplesBank also has customers in the Northampton area, according to Goodwin. The Holyoke-based PeoplesBank, founded in 1885, has branches in Amherst and Hadley and Goodwin said the branch will fill out the bank’s footprint in Hampshire County.

“We think we have a wonderful value proposition that aligns with the Northampton market,” said Goodwin, who cited the bank’s commitment to volunteerism and environmentally friendly development as factors that will make it fit in well. She noted that the branch will include an electric car charging station.

The Northampton branch of PeoplesBank is being built to meet the standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a system for rating buildings that are environmentally sustainable in their construction and operation, according to Goodwin. She said that the bank’s two most recent branches, in Springfield and Holyoke, both qualified for LEED certification.

“We really are very committed to sustainable energy and making sure we are having less of an impact on the environment,” she said. Goodwin said the branch will have a large lobby that is designed to be a welcoming space for community use.

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