Nick Nikkila/Chinook Observer
NASELLE — A tear in the weave of the Naselle-Grays River community was revealed on Friday with news that its Bank of the Pacific, along with the one in Warrenton, Oregon.
The bank’s holding company, Pacific Financial Corp., announced the two branches will close on Feb. 1.
That announcement was followed on Saturday with letters to Naselle-area Bank of the Pacific (BOP) customers letting them know of the closure and that their accounts would be consolidated with either the Cathlamet or Long Beach branches.
Expressions of shock, dismay and frustration showed up on social media.
“So much for ‘Home Town Bank,’ just close it and leave us to drive 35 miles to a bank!! NOT HAPPY AT ALL!!” one post said.
“Warrenton would have been my new go-to bank. Screw that, I’m going to swap banks now. That made that an easy decision,” another said.
“Very sad and disappointing,” was a sentiment expressed by several.
In a press release, Bank of the Pacific President and Chief Operating Officer Denise Portman said, “Based on a thorough assessment of the current and future banking environment, the declining use of the physical branch is becoming increasingly apparent. In the case of Naselle, branch transactions have steadily declined in concert with the decline in its population and increased use of online tools to access banking services. As such, the branch has been operating on limited hours for some time.
“It makes sense to transfer our customer accounts to more viable nearby locations. Fortunately, due to retirement and other staffing opportunities at this time, there will be minimal impact to our employees. We will be able to retain a majority of the staff from Naselle and relocate them to other branches.”
Portman also noted, “Similarly, the Warrenton branch was also not achieving its desired market penetration, and nearby branches in our Seaside and Astoria markets attracted the bulk of the deposits in Clatsop County in recent years. In fact, per data recently released by the FDIC, the city of Warrenton has the smallest average branch size for banks in Clatsop County compared to other cities within the county.
“We believe our customers will have minimal disruption as we transfer their accounts to neighboring branches in Astoria or Seaside.”
Since opening its doors in 1975, the Naselle branch has become a fixture in the community. To some, entering the bank was a lot like Norm walking into the bar on the TV show “Cheers,” where the theme song says, “everybody knows your name.” There was a friendly hometown feeling with familiar local employees.
Some Naselle-area business operators said the impact will not be small.
“Losing the Naselle bank will be a hardship on everyone in our town,” noted Mike Swanson of Swanson’s Realty. “The local founders of the BOP realized the importance of a bank to its citizens. I have been a customer of the Naselle branch since the beginning. As a business owner I will have to take a chunk of time out of my day to visit a bank, and it probably won’t be a Bank of the Pacific.”
Naselle-Grays River Valley School District Superintendent Lisa Nelson said, “The auditors expect us to deposit our cash and checks daily. This is going to definitely alter how we do business. The closest bank is now at least 30 minutes away.”
Hunter’s Inn General Manager Brian Stube said, “I’m shocked to hear they are closing the Naselle branch. That is going to make a huge difference. It means the nearest banking facility is at least an hour’s round-trip which is going to be a major inconvenience.”
Dave Leeland, who owns Naselle Hardware, said, “This will definitely have an impact on our banking activities. None of the alternate BOP facilities are quickly accessible.”
Portman also said, “The financial impact of these transactions is anticipated to result in a reduction of $437,000 in operating costs. We will take a one-time charge of approximately $60,000 for associated closing costs, including severance and write-down of fixed assets. Upon completion of these transactions, Bank of the Pacific will have enhanced the effectiveness of its branch delivery network, while continuing to maintain a strong presence in the States of Washington and Oregon.”
For the first six months this year, net income for Pacific Financial was reported to be $4.9 million, up 42 percent from $3.5 million for the first six months of 2017.
“Second quarter earnings were the most profitable quarter in our history and marks another significant step in strengthening our franchise,” said Portman. A Bank of the Pacific ATM will remain in Naselle and Warrenton.