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October 20, 2016

The best corner in Bartow

If you live in Polk County, you have probably driven past our Bartow branch many times and never considered how we ended up with the best corner in Bartow.

It all started with a call from our board member Harry Williams. He called me and told me that the liquor store on that site, which was operated by a regional chain, had closed and that he thought it would make a great branch location.

As the CEO, you always follow up on a board member’s suggestion. So I drove down to Bartow and looked at the location. I have to admit I was skeptical. The site seemed too small, there was no “for sale or lease” sign on the building and I sort of assumed that Publix, the anchor store of the shopping center, probably controlled the corner.

But, I went ahead and called the liquor chain’s headquarters. I talked to their facilities manager and he indicated that the site was for sale, and surprisingly, the price he quoted was very attractive. However, the site was in fact too small for a branch. I did learn though that the center was owned by an investor, not Publix, and that there was a stand-alone drive-up ATM for lease nearby.

So, I called the shopping center leasing agent and asked if we could lease not only the ATM, but also the land between the liquor store and the ATM, and receive permission to park employee’s cars in the shopping center parking lot. It wasn’t cheap, but they agreed to such a lease. So I went back to the liquor store and bought, at a bargain price, what many consider to be the best site in Bartow.

Others must have agreed with that assessment, because once the word was out that we had bought the property and leased the adjoining land, I started to receive phone calls begging to purchase the land before we built on it. Not only did one of the big drug stores call, but I also heard from the shopping center owner, who had now decided that they should have bought the site and flipped it to someone else. I remember one call where an insistent guy kept saying, “Just state a price!” to which I replied, “It’s not for sale!”

“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. Read more.