Union Planters Bank branch to close as business declines

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Citing years of decreasing customers, Union Planters Bank officials have decided to shut down the branch at 325 Broadway. When it closes around May 2, there no longer will be a full-service bank in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Letters were mailed to customers Friday notifying them of the closure, said Union Planters' regional president Charles Daniel.

The Broadway branch has been struggling for several years, Daniel said.

"That spot's been under the microscope for some time," he said. "Each year, we'd roll it and say let's go one more year and see what happens. Then we decided we've got to pull the trigger on it."

The five employees -- three full time and two part time -- will take positions at the bank's two other Cape Girardeau branches on Mount Auburn and North Kingshighway.

Daniel said they'd already reduced the bank to minimal staffing, but it still didn't make economic sense to keep it open. Daniel would not provide the number of customer transactions the bank has seen in the past few years.

"But not only was it not doing the business we'd hoped for, it was declining," he said. "It seemed to us that our customers have found other locations that are more convenient for them."

Union Planters, which owns the building, will honor the lease of the federal attorney's office, which is located on the second floor of the building. When Union Planters sells the building, Daniel said, the new owner will have to honor the lease until the offices are moved to the new federal building.

Daniel said those who have accounts with Union Planters don't have to do anything: Their accounts will still be good at the other Union Planters branches. Customers with safe-deposit boxes will be notified and given the option of which branch they want their boxes transferred to.

Banks used to be abundant in downtown Cape Girardeau. Now all that remains is Capaha Bank's training center at 1 S. Main St. They do no banking, but do offer an ATM.

The closing of the Broadway branch came as a surprise to some, especially with the new developments under way -- the construction of the new bridge and federal building, as well as the renovation of the Marquette Hotel into a state office building and the creation of Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus.

"Does this leave the revitalized downtown area without a banking facility?" said one customer, Dr. Paul Lloyd, a psychology professor at Southeast Missouri State University. "It seems like the perfect time to have a bank downtown, especially with all that's going on."

It's also been a convenience for Lloyd as well as businesses and the people who live near the bank.

"It's been there for so many years," he said. "It's a kind of landmark in downtown Cape Girardeau."

Union Planters took over the Broadway location in 1990. Before that, the building had been First Federal Savings and Loan, which moved into the new office building in 1964.

For Jay Scofield, the bank closing presented more of a hassle.

"I'm in here two, three days a week," he said. "I don't have a car. This is going to be a pain."

Customer Herb Nance said he thought the bank closing reflected poorly on downtown Cape Girardeau, which long has struggled with an image problem as development continues in the western part of the city.

But Daniel said the decision to close the bank doesn't say anything about the downtown area.

"Businesses open and close all the time," he said. "It's not like we're leaving downtown Cape Girardeau. We have loans down there and there are new loans there we want to make. It's just that our customers don't find that one location convenient."

Downtown businessman Dennis "Doc" Cain, who owns Port Cape Girardeau, is also a member of the Downtown Merchants Association. He agreed that the bank moving doesn't speak poorly of downtown.

"I just think, quite honestly, it's just a change in the way banks do business," he said, adding that more businesses operate downtown now than when the bank first opened.

Cain also pointed out that the downtown is about to go through something of a renaissance.

"Union Planters is doing this, but I bet at someone's next executive meeting, someone's going to say that building provides a heck of an opportunity," he said. "I bet someone will pick up that bank spot. We do feel good about what's going on around here."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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