Susan Pittman Horton would like people to come into Wheatland Bank’s remodeled downtown branch to watch Oprah, drink coffee and check their e-mail for free.
And while they’re at it, maybe they’ll open a checking or savings account.
The bank president says the bank’s new first-floor location at 222 N. Wall, facing Riverfront Park, was designed to attract people in off the street to check it out. The bank has just finished a four-month, $700,000 remodel of the first floor of the building and has moved its branch downstairs from the third floor.
“We want this to be a community connection area,” Horton said. “We’re trying to create an experience that is different from other banks.”
A “soft opening” will be held today, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Tuesday. A grand opening party will be held in July at the building that has been renamed the Wheatland Bank Financial Center. The bank will retain some administrative offices on the third floor.
The remodel of the first floor has added drive-through service, free parking spaces for customers and a lobby that includes plasma TVs, free Internet service and even massages.
“Yesterday, the Michael Jackson verdict was announced in midday, and we had 20 or 30 people gathered in the lobby to watch,” Horton said. “It’s been designed to really encourage that.”
Also today, the bank is breaking ground for a new North Side branch at state Highway 2 and Nevada Street. That branch — the bank’s ninth — is scheduled to be completed in October, Horton said. Plans also have been formulated for a South Hill branch in 2006, she said.
The expansion of the downtown branch and construction of the North Side branch will add eight to 10 employees to the bank’s 70-person staff, Horton said.