Santa Cruz County Bank invests $2 million in new HQSeptember 11, 2018
Strolling into Santa Cruz County Bank Monday afternoon, Ian and Mary Rose Mackenzie, who own Mackenzies Chocolate, were impressed by the bank’s newly remodeled headquarters at 75 River St.
“It’s lovely,” said Mary Rose Mackenzie.
Her husband added, “The parking is much better.”
The locally-owned bank, which has $635 million in assets, moved in 47 employees last week after completing a renovation that cost “close to $2 million,” according to David Heald, the bank’s president and CEO.
“We brought quite a bit a of life back to this place,” said Heald. “It’s the gateway to our town.”
The 14,000-square-foot building had sat empty for 10 years, a casualty of the 2007 recession and ensuing financial crisis after Wells Fargo acquired the occupant, Coast Commercial Bank.
Now Santa Cruz County Bank, founded 14 years ago by local investors, is across the street from Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo, a 166-year-old giant, has the biggest market share of deposits in the county. In the past 18 years, Wells Fargo has paid $12 billion in penalties to settle claims of mortgage abuses, toxic securities and banking violations.
A real estate company is expected to move into 720 Front St., the space vacated by Santa Cruz County Bank.
NEW AND OLD
Santa Cruz architect William Kempf and Santa Cruz interior designer Lorri Kershner came up with the idea to incorporate wood into the exterior of the 51-year-old building.
“We wanted to bring to it a more modern touch,” Heald said.
At the property, which is leased for 20 years, customers will find more than 52 free parking spaces — an amenity that is becoming harder to find downtown.
There are two ATMs instead of one, both upgraded to accept checks and cash and do additional transactions.
Restrooms were redone to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In the community meeting room hangs a painting by Santa Cruz artist Ed Penniman depicting the Chinatown of yesteryear next to the San Lorenzo River.
“We’re basically sitting on that property,” Heald said, checking the view through large windows.
Heald said the bank is “trying to save trees” with a large electronic screen in the employee meeting space to avoid printing paper copies.
Employees have a kitchen break room with natural light, and an outdoor space for eating lunch is being readied.
The remodeling project, undertaken during a boom in local construction, was overseen by Jesse Nickell of Swenson Builders and provided work to 47 companies, most of them local. They included: Locatelli Movers, Roy Johnson Art, Kenville Locks, Palace Office Supplies, Las Animas Concrete, Mission Tile and Joni Janecki & Associates.
“We had a difficult time finding subcontractors,” Heald said. “Some of our customers couldn’t bid because they were so busy. We went with locals everywhere we could.”
The bank has grown to the size to require a compliance division, Heald said.
Community banks such as Santa Cruz County Bank must comply with the 1970 Bank Securities Act, assisting government agencies in detecting money laundering, he added.
Santa Cruz County Bank, which has four other locations, has close to 100 employees in all.
Brent Dunton, who spent 11 years at Comerica Bank, recently joined Santa Cruz County Bank as vice president of business banking.
Six positions are open, two in small business lending, two relationship managers, one in online banking and one in client service.
“Talking to our clients, they like all the electronics but they still want that personal touch,” Heald said.