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August 24, 2016

It's not for sale!

Our North Lakeland office at Highway 98 and Duff Road is one of our nicest facilities, but was also one of our most challenging building sites to purchase.

Several years ago, our board and staff identified the Highway 98 and Duff Road corner as a desirable branch location. There was a small family-owned upholstery shop at that corner, which I felt was our best shot at buying a parcel at the intersection. So, I stopped in and asked if the property might be for sale. The owner and his wife said “absolutely not!”

I stopped in periodically and asked again about buying the building. Finally after about three years, the owner (I think encouraged by his wife) agreed to sell the building and land. I got a contract on the land, and at that point I thought we were ready to build. However, I soon discovered that I would also need to buy a small adjacent strip of land from a local doctor, and vacate an old cattle easement from the 1800s from a rancher.

I called the doctor’s office and tried to set up an appointment. He said that I would need to meet him after he was done with his patients. So I went to his office and waited in the lobby until the last patient was gone, and then sitting in an exam room I pitched the idea of buying a portion of his land. Of course, the immediate answer was “it’s not for sale,” because he planned to build a clinic there eventually. However, after a few follow-up calls, he finally relented and agreed to sell us the land we needed.

The situation with the rancher was interesting, because they had an easement though the upholstery shop parcel that allowed them to move cows out onto Highway 98. (This was a throwback from when Highway 98 was a dirt road, Florida was free-range and you could move your cows anywhere on the range.) I met several times with the family and ended up buying the easement…and an old MGB. (They insisted I buy the car once they found out that I was into British sports cars. I didn’t really want the old rust bucket, but you do what you have to do to get the deal done!)

After putting together the two parcels and negotiating easements to build a new road onto the property, we finally had a deal and began construction of the new office. We opted for a two-story building, which was more expensive than I had hoped for, but we wanted something spectacular. I think it has turned out to be our most beautiful branch!

“Every Branch Has a Story” is a blog series by Kevin Jones, President/CEO of MIDFLORIDA and an employee of the credit union since 1992. The blogs chronicle the history of the MIDFLORIDA branches, and discusses how each came into existence.