Decision to close Enochville’s only bank upsets some customers

ENOCHVILLE — Rhonda Lambert can get to the CommunityOne Bank branch on Enochville Avenue and back to her business in about 20 minutes.

And that’s important to the owner of Wayne’s Auto Salvage and Metal Recycling, because she often needs to make multiple trips to the bank so she has enough cash for her business.

“The way the business operates … I don’t know in the morning how much I’m going to need on hand,” Lambert said.

But CommunityOne has notified customers it will shut down the Enochville branch April 22. A letter dated Jan. 15 from bank President Robert Reid said the company has “spent the past several months evaluating our network of branches. Unfortunately, this evaluation has resulted in our decision to close our Enochville branch.”

The letter says accounts at the branch in the southern Rowan County community will automatically be transferred to the bank’s China Grove operation, the closest one.

It won’t be close, though, for business owners and residents who bank with CommuntyOne, Lambert said. Instead of 20 minutes, it’ll mean an hour round trip for her.

And she’s not the only one.

“We’ve got some farmers out in this area, they don’t want to travel that far, a lot of elderly people, too,” she said.

CommunityOne has the only full-service branch in Enochville. The bank says it will leave an ATM at its current site, but Lambert said that “won’t do me any good.”

“I make large transactions daily,” she said. “I have to go and get money to operate our business, and I can’t get that kind of money out of an ATM.”

It’s not just the distance, Lambert said. She can switch to a different bank in Kannapolis and not have to travel much farther than she does now. But her business has been banking with the CommunityOne branch in Enochville for a decade.

“When you’ve been with a bank for a little over 10 years, they know you, you know them,” she said. The tellers at the Enochville branch “take care of us so good.”

Lambert and others have started a drive to keep the Enochville branch. Hundreds of people have signed petitions in businesses around the community, including Ron’s Quick Grocery, whose owner, Shailesh Panara, does banking for his six stores at CommunityOne.

“It’s our community bank, and we like it. We like the employees,” Panara said. “I don’t know what to do, but I hope they’re going to change their decision and keep it there.”

That’s not going to happen, one bank official said.

The Post tried to contact CommunityOne executives at the bank’s headquarters, but the company’s communications manager did not return telephone or email messages.

But Jeannette West, manager of the Enochville bank branch, said the decision has been made.

“Our senior leadership … looked at a broad spectrum of data before they made that decision,” she said. “And we have to trust that they made the right decision for the bank.”

West said branches in Biscoe and Dallas are also being closed. She doesn’t think community efforts can save them.

“I certainly understand the need and the concern for the community, and I can empathize with that,” she said. “But I really don’t feel like there’s going to be any impact from the petition.”

That’s bad news for people like David Watts, who owns Enochville Food Center and Watts BP Food Mart. But he said it could be bad news for the bank, which might lose a lot of customers in Enochville.

“It’s going to cause a hardship,” he said. “They’re not going to save nothing by shutting this branch down and creating heartache for people out here.”

Watts said CommunityOne recruited his businesses to the bank, and he’s got a loan renewal coming up on one of his stores. He said employees at the Enochville branch “have been extremely gracious and nice to us. You can’t ask for a better group of people.”

Watts acknowledged the community’s effort to keep its only bank branch may not succeed, but he said they have to “try and at least let people know it means something to us out here.”

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