Business

Oak Harbor banking team together again

Former InterWest Bank customers who walk into the stately Pioneer Way building that once housed the bank may feel a sense of deja vu walking in.

The six-person management team from InterWest, which later became Pacific Northwest, are back. But now they are working for Lynden-based Peoples Bank in a newly-remodeled portion of the building.

Many Whidbey political figures, business people and former InterWest customers joined in the Peoples Bank grand opening celebration Thursday afternoon. The inside of the building has been remodeled to open it up and improve the look — the orange and plaid are gone.

Curtis Shumate, vice president and branch manager, cut the ceremonial ribbon and spoke about how excited he was to have his team back together. He expects business to be even better the second time around.

“We’re going to be more hands-on, front-line with our customers instead staying in the back offices,” he said. “I think customers want to come in and sit with decision makers.”

The bank opening means that the 27,000-square-foot front part of the former InterWest administrative building will no longer be sitting empty.

Shumate was a manager with InterWest Bank, and ultimately lost his job, when it went through major changes in the late 1990s and beyond. InterWest was founded as Island Savings in Oak Harbor in 1957. In 1998, the bank purchased Pacific Northwest Bank and eventually changed the entire company’s name to match, turned it into a commercial bank and moved the administrative offices to Seattle.

In 2002, the bank hired out mortgage lending and about 80 employees lost their jobs. In 2003, Wells-Fargo bought out Pacific Northwest and sold the large administrative building to Mount Vernon developer Milt Armstrong and a partner. Their limited-liability corporation is called O.H.

At one point, library officials considered moving the city’s library to the building since it’s about the right size. The idea fell through because of timing issues.

Now that Peoples Bank has moved in, Armstrong said he’s negotiating with a possible tenant for the remaining 19,000 square feet of space. He said he’s renovating the part of the three-story building to add a new entrance and improve the look of the inside.

After leaving Pacific Northwest, Shumate and assistant manager Susan Mallams went to work with Peoples Bank. Shumate said he was thrilled when the family-owned company decided to move into the old InterWest building.

It turned out that his old “banking team” wanted to go back to work for him and Mallams.

“We have a team of great local bankers running the office and we’re very proud of the new branch,” said Charles LeCocq, president and CEO. “We invite everyone to stop by, meet the team and see the exciting changes we’ve made.”

Peoples Bank is a $710 million, independent community bank. The company was founded in 1921 and operates 24 branches. The new branch is a full-service office featuring a wide range of banking products and services, including real estate lending, personal and business banking, and drive-through banking.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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