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Banking on a busy highway

North Jersey / The Record
Columbia Bank will move in January from a Paramus location it has been in for decades in the Stop & Shop plaza on Route 17 south to a new $1.2 million branch a few doors down, joining two other banks that built branches recently on the busy highway.

Ray Hallock, chief executive officer of Fair Lawn-based Columbia, said in a recent interview he would rather keep the branch and its $65 million in deposits where they are, in a storefront next to the supermarket. “We’ve been there for more than 30 years,” he said. Stop & Shop had notified him a few years ago that the lease will not be renewed when it expires next year, he said.

The supermarket chain did not extend the lease because it is “exploring options” for the property, including a possible expansion that would require taking over the bank’s space, said Stop & Shop spokeswoman Faith S. Weiner.

Columbia will follow McLean, Va.-based Capital One, which opened a branch at the end of last year on Route 17 north in Paramus, and Portland, Maine-based TD Bank, which opened one earlier in November on Route 17 north in Mahwah.

Top Banks

Columbia Bank, which is building a new branch in Paramus, ranks fourth in deposit market share in the town. Here are the top five deposit holders in Paramus, as of June 30:

Bank Deposit share

Hudson City Savings Bank: 29.7%

TD Bank: 23.9%

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.: 11.9%

Columbia Bank: 9.1%

Valley National Bank: 8.0%

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The TD branch site was chosen for its “high visibility and easy access,” said TD spokeswoman Lauren S. McClintock. Customers and deposits are being shifted from two Mahwah TD branches that are closing, on Franklin Turnpike and MacArthur Boulevard, she said.

“The new Mahwah location is larger,” McClintock said in an e-mail. “One of the stores that’s closing didn’t have safe-deposit boxes; the new location does,” she said.

The Capital One branch replaced one on East Ridgewood Avenue in Paramus.

“In this tough economy many banks are consolidating in areas where a concentration of people live, work and shop,” said Les Dinkin, managing director of Novantas LLC, a New York City-based management consulting firm.

Hallock said he wanted to move to a secondary road near the Stop & Shop so his customers would not have to drive on the highway, but he could find no suitable sites because of zoning restrictions. So customers who now can get to the bank from Route 17 south or from a Linwood Road entrance will have no choice but to get on Route 17 south to get to the new branch under construction on the former Tower Records property.

The new Columbia Bank branch is larger than the one it will replace, and unlike the older branch the new one will have drive-through service, Hallock said.

“The move will be a real test of how much customers value their service,” Dinkin said.

Convenience is paramount in successful branch development, he said, but offering a new branch with drive-through lanes in a high-traffic area is likely to draw new clients, he added.

For more information, contact Novantas Marketing

+1 (212) 953-4444