Merchants Banks to consolidate two Bennington branches at third site
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | February 27,2013
Patrick McArdle / Staff Photo
Merchants Bank plans to close this North Bennington branch and a branch on Main Street in Bennington and consolidate the two in a new location on Northside Drive in Bennington. This location has been a bank since 1861.
BENNINGTON — Merchants Bank will be closing two banks in Bennington and North Bennington, and replacing the two locations with a new bank on Northside Drive in front of Walmart, said Michael Tuttle, the bank’s president and CEO.
The two locations that will be closing are on Main Street in Bennington and Bank Street in North Bennington.
The new bank will be located at the former Wendy’s Restaurant in the Monument Shopping Plaza. The plaza is the home of Bennington’s Walmart and Price Chopper but the bank location is built on a separate island closer than either of the bigger stores to Northside Drive.
Tuttle said part of the decision to consolidate locations was finding a new site that would serve the bank and its customers well but said there were other considerations that affected the timing.
“Our lease in the downtown Bennington location is coming up so this is a pretty routine matter. Any time we have a lease that’s coming up, we’re certainly going to look and see whether we want to renew that lease (and) whether we want to stay in that particular location,” he said.
Tuttle said at the end of a lease period, bank officials would also consider whether that site needs investment and whether it’s a location where the bank should invest money or consider another location.
According to Tuttle, Merchants Bank will be entering into a long lease for the Northside Drive location and has no plans to leave the area.
The proposal to convert the restaurant into a bank branch has already been submitted to the Bennington Development Review Board and the first hearing is scheduled for March 19.
Tuttle said he hoped, if the permits are granted, the new branch will be ready in late July or August. The other two branches will remain open during the construction of the new branch.
The new site is almost exactly between the existing bank branches, Tuttle pointed out.
Between the Bennington and North Bennington branches, Merchants Bank employs seven people in full-time positions. Tuttle said the employees of the bank know that some positions might be lost during the consolidation.
However, Tuttle said no determination had been made yet about how many jobs might be lost.
“Frankly we’ve had some attrition already in the staff in anticipation of this. We haven’t filled some of those slots. I don’t know how many, if any, we have to go from there,” he said.
According to Tuttle, Merchants Bank acquired both banks after they bought the former Catamount Banks about 25 years ago.
Merchants Banks, which has a headquarters in Burlington, has 33 locations in Vermont.
According to records at the Bennington town offices, the Merchants Bank in Bennington is in a building that was built in 1968.
Bennington Town Clerk Timothy Corcoran found records that show the land for the bank in North Bennington was purchased in 1861 for $500 by the First National Bank of North Bennington.
That building is owned by Merchants Bank. Tuttle said the bank would sell it now that they’re leaving. The closure of the site will leave the village of North Bennington without a bank.
The Development Review Board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 19 at the Bennington Fire Facility.