The branch in the swamp
One of our most successful branches is the South Lakeland office. However, it was almost not to be.
When the land for our South Lakeland branch was originally purchased, the site was not surveyed and the board of directors at the time thought they were purchasing a high and dry site—but instead had actually acquired swampland to the north!
After much negotiating with the county, the credit union was finally allowed to build on the site if we agreed to build a large underground pond to hold the water to be displaced by the branch. Unfortunately, the site work ended up costing almost as much as the original purchase price of the lot!
Another problem with this site was that the county wouldn’t allow for the mature trees to be removed, so when the branch originally opened, the small drive-thru became an obstacle course for members as they attempted to dodge the trees when entering for service.
However, even with these issues, the branch was a huge success! So much so that the drive-thru would back-up around the building, through the parking lot and down SR 37. It became so busy that we would have people stop in just to see what we were giving away!
After a few years of trying to squeeze more and more members through the drive-thru, we came up with a bold new plan. We would purchase the entire shopping center to the north, tear it down and then expand the drive-thrus. We met with the shopping center owner, who thought we were crazy, but gladly agreed to sell his old run-down shopping center.
After several months of moving out tenants and developing plans, we finally began construction of a new eight-lane drive-thru and staff parking lot. This branch was already a success, but the new drive-thru and increased visibility turned this branch into a superstar. More than twenty years later, it continues to be one of our most popular offices.
“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.