By VIC BRADSHAW
Reprinted with permission
HARRISONBURG — Rockingham County’s predominant bank is setting up shop in the one corner of the county it doesn’t serve.
Farmers & Merchants Bank has acquired the building at 200 Augusta Ave. in Grottoes that previously housed a BB&T branch and plans to open there in mid-July, according to Neil Hayslett, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of parent company F&M Bank Corp.
Interviews are being held now for the four staff positions at the bank, and minor renovations are planned.
“We’ve talked about it off and on for years,” Hayslett said of F&M’s decision to open a Grottoes location. “When BB&T and what used to be StellarOne was there, we didn’t feel like there was room for three banks.”
That situation changed in August 2013 when BB&T left the town.
Hayslett said F&M decided to pursue entry to the Staunton market more aggressively and also moved into the former BB&T location in Craigsville, which closed around the same time as the Grottoes branch. When company officials learned this spring the Grottoes building remained available and no restrictions existed on a bank operating there, they negotiated the purchase.
Alan E. Strawderman and CCANDO LLC sold the building to Farmers & Merchants early this month for $369,000, according to property records.
Farmers & Merchants, headquartered in Timberville, is the leading bank in Rockingham County. According to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data, customers had $319.3 million deposited in its Bridgewater, Broadway, Elkton and Timberville branches, which was 46 percent of the total held by county banks.
Union Bank & Trust, which bought StellarOne in May 2014, is the only bank operating in Grottoes.
BB&T’s former office was built in 1986, Hayslett said, so interior remodeling is planned to “freshen up the look.” New carpet, paint and furnishings are planned.
The exterior was in relatively good shape except for the sidewalk, which he said would be replaced.
The bank will be open Monday through Friday and a halfday on Saturday. Hayslett said customers will be able to make deposits and withdrawals at the branch and apply for loans, and company mortgage and investment officials will visit the site by appointment.
The Craigsville branch Farmers & Merchants opened in December has exceeded expectations, he said, and he thinks Grottoes residents will welcome the company.
“I think [Grottoes] fits into our footprint well, but it also fits into the fact that we like putting branches into smaller towns that often are underserved by financial institutions,” said Hayslett. “We think that its population and growth justifies more than one bank in Grottoes.”
Contact Vic Bradshaw at 574-6279 or firstname.lastname@example.org