Global Credit Union closes grocery-based branches in Pasco, Kennewick

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Yoke’s Fresh Market seeks to fill vacancy with another bank, credit union

Global Credit Union has closed its two Tri-City grocery store branches.

Officials shuttered locations inside the Pasco and Kennewick Yoke’s Fresh Market stores on Jan. 31.

Global Credit Union’s 1,600 Tri-City members may keep their accounts open and rely on mobile banking, online bill pay services and home banking in lieu of visiting a branch in person.

Mary Starkey, Global Credit Union executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the credit union hasn’t seen any significant growth since it arrived in the market 15 years ago. She said various strategies to stimulate growth haven’t panned out, which resulted in the closure of the branches.

“We have to look at our whole branch system: how does everything contribute to the overall credit union for the members?” she said.

Additionally, the credit union has moved away from a business strategy which put banking services into grocery stores only. Today, 10 branches of the credit union remain, none inside grocery stores.

The closure of the Yoke’s-based branches in the Tri-Cities left nine employees out of work. The credit union employed three people full time and six part time. All nine employees were offered positions at branches outside the area, but no one accepted the option to transfer.

Starkey expressed gratitude that each Tri-City employee opted to work until the branches closed permanently.

Global Credit Union has five branches around Spokane, where it is headquartered, two in northern Idaho and three on military bases in Italy, serving 50,000 members in all.

“We’ve always tried to serve people from a long distance,” Starkey said.

The company has decreased its presence in western Europe over the years, and increased its presence in Eastern Washington, targeting mainly Spokane, where it was founded.

The decision to shut down the Tri-City offices was made after the leases for the Kennewick and Pasco stores had already been renewed.

Global Credit Union will continue to make lease payments through the end of 2018, unless a sub-let is arranged for the remainder of the contract.

Yoke’s vice president of marketing, John Orton, said the store is interested in filling the spaces with another credit union or bank and hopes to offer banking services to grocery customers again in the future.

The Global Credit Union branches opened in the Tri-City Yoke’s stores in 2003, and a home loan center opened  on Kennewick Boulevard in 2006. Any loans in progress were transferred to the Spokane office when the home loan center closed at the end of 2017, when the lease expired.

Starkey said Global Credit Union made its entrance into the Tri-Cities knowing longtime and well-established credit unions like Gesa and HAPO were already dominating the market.

Global Credit Union considered opening a standalone branch in Richland at one point, but a consultant who assessed the potential for success found it would take seven to eight years to make an impact. Since the credit union is responsible for making investment decisions benefiting all of its members, the lengthy delay for potential success meant the expansion wasn’t pursued.

Global Credit Union’s original expansion into the Tri-Cities came as a result of a 2002 statewide community charter that allowed it to serve anyone who lives or works in Washington state.

But the branches never expanded beyond those original locations, which offered drive-through services.

Global Credit Union’s branching strategy resulted in its first grocery store location, at a Spokane Tidyman’s supermarket in 1986. This was considered a first of its kind concept for the West Coast.

Starkey said she hopes Global Credit Union’s Tri-Cities members will continue to bank with the credit union despite the closures.

“We may not be here for you to walk into a branch, but we are still here for you,” she said.

Robin Wojtanik

Robin Wojtanik

Robin Wojtanik spent most of her career in broadcast journalism, working at television stations around the country. She spent nearly a decade managing newsrooms in the Tri-Cities and Yakima.
She enjoys volunteering for Junior Achievement and Christ the King School and serves on the board for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Northwest chapter. She lives in
Richland with her husband and children.

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