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3/14/2017 6:22:00 PM
Town's lone bank closes, citing decline in local foot traffic
Shirley's STAR Bank is planned to close June 9. Staff photo by Royce Hatcher
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Shirley's STAR Bank is planned to close June 9. Staff photo by Royce Hatcher

Rorye Hatcher, Daily Reporter

SHIRLEY — The only bank in Shirley will shutter its doors this summer after more than 60 years serving area residents at its Main Street location.

The Shirley branch of Ft. Wayne-based STAR Bank is set to close June 9, with company leaders citing dwindling foot traffic amid an increase in online banking. STAR bank, which boasts more than 45 locations in central and northeast Indiana and also owns subsidiaries STAR Wealth Management and STAR Insurance Agency, has operated in Shirley since 1957.

Though the Shirley branch will close, and its three employees will be offered positions at other locations, an ATM with video capability will allow STAR Bank customers to speak to a teller live via video; the terminal will remain open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week, said Melissa Schenkel, STAR Bank director of corporate and community engagement, in an email to the Daily Reporter. The bank has no immediate plans to sell the building, she added.

The teller connected via video to customers can perform virtually any day-to-day transaction conducted in a branch, she said. STAR Bank also has locations in New Castle, Greenfield or Pendleton, Schenkel added.

Area residents and business owners circulated a petition asking the business to reverse its decision. Shirley Town Council member Becky Perkins created the petition, which was recently posted at businesses and government buildings in the three towns the bank serves most — Shirley, Wilkinson, and Kennard, which altogether are home to about 1,300 residents.

“I think they’re doing a disservice to their customers,” Perkins said. “These small towns and their residents have a lot to do with the success the company has had.”

Bank officials said technology played a big part in the decision to close the branch.

The company has invested more heavily in electronic banking technology as its customers’ habits have evolved, Schenkel said.

“Our customers are utilizing our online banking, mobile app and video banking machines at the highest rate in history,” she wrote. “As is a trend with banks across the country, traffic in certain geographic locations isn’t enough to sustain specific branches.”

Shirley clerk-treasurer Teresa Hester and Andy Ebbert, chief of the town’s volunteer fire department, met with bank officials on Friday to discuss the closure. Town officials sought to understand the decision and to help bank managers realize the impact the closure will have on the community, Ebbert said.

Ebbert said Shirley’s aging population still values face to face interactions while conducting bank business.

“Elderly residents who don’t travel very far are not going to want to use this technology to assist with their banking needs,” he said.

Business owners have also expressed disappointment they’ll be losing one of their neighbors. The bank’s closure impacts not only residents but business owners as well, said Bob Frazier, who owns the South End Bar.

He said he understands the bank’s reasoning, but having to go to other branches to get change or make deposits will be an inconvenience.

And it’s a change that doesn’t bode well for the small town’s future, he said.

“I understand the banking industry is competitive, and if one branch is costing more than it’s making, they will try to consolidate. It’s what’s happening a lot of places,” he said. “It just means the town’s going down a little bit more.”

Copyright 2017 Daily Reporter

Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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