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Opening of State Employees’ Credit Union is the fulfillment of a vision for Mary Ponds, Granite Quarry

GRANITE QUARRY — Walking through the spacious, bright building for the first time last month, Mary Ponds was struck by the very fact of its existence.

“It was indescribable how I felt,” Ponds said. “I could see something that we had started from the ground and now we’re able to walk in it and serve the citizens of Rowan County with a beautiful building. I was elated that I was probably the first non-credit union person in there and able to experience the magnificent edifice that we were in the midst of.”

The way Ponds talks about the new State Employees’ Credit Union at 970 N. Salisbury Ave. is the way one might talk about visiting the Taj Mahal or Sistine Chapel. 

To her, the branch is just as awe-inspiring.

“I call this my baby,” Ponds said.

When Ponds was elected mayor of Granite Quarry in 1999 — the first woman and African American to hold the office — bringing an SECU branch to the town was at the top of her agenda. Two decades and one pandemic later, the branch will open to the public for the first time on Monday morning.

“We are very excited to offer the first SECU branch location for Granite Quarry and look forward to serving our membership with greater accessibility and convenience,” said Lori Cinquemani, SECU VP/city executive. “We want all of our members and potential members in this area to know that we are here to serve them in their community.”

It will be the second SECU location in Rowan County, joining the branch at 1030 Mooresville Road. A location near China Grove is currently in the works as well.

Founded in 1937, SECU primarily serves employees of the state and their immediate family. The not-for-profit credit union has grown to have over $40 billion in assets and serves over 2.4 million members.

Adding a location in eastern Rowan County has long been a priority for the credit union.

“We had done several studies and this was the area that most needed our attention,” said Cinquemani, who will be overseeing the daily operations of the branch. “Between Salisbury and Albemarle, there’s not a branch.”

Being close to multiple municipalities and the I-85 corridor, along with the branch’s proximity to a number of schools, was a driving factor.

“There’s like eight or nine schools within a 10-15 minute radius, which is one of our primary memberships because all of those employees are state employees,” Cinquemani said. “That was a huge factor.”

Ponds, a long-serving member of the SECU’s board for the Salisbury branch, understood those factors and worked to make sure her town would be the site of the branch. The biggest hurdle, she said, was finding the right location.

“We had to find the landowners and a lot of the times the properties we suggested were not large enough, or they were not corner lots, or lots that had easy access,” Ponds said. “It took time, but patience has paid off.”

The town and the credit union finally settled on a location that is not far from the “Welcome to Granite Quarry” sign.

To commemorate Ponds’ efforts to bring the credit union to Granite Quarry, as well as her overall commitment to the community, the town board and SECU in 2017 named the service road behind the building Mayor Ponds Street.

Ground was officially broken on the branch in July of 2019, but construction was derailed by the pandemic.

“We hit the rainy season, then we hit COVID,” Cinquemani said. “COVID created many challenges with supplies, with staffing for the crews. It really created a lot of challenges to get the materials they needed, so it really slowed things down a good. It’s taken well over a year and a half to get them where it needed to be.”

The building was finally ready last month. Cinquemani remembers the day that the keys the were handed to her.

“We’ve had our battles. It was touch and go. We thought we were going to be able to move in last year this time,” Cinquemani said. “That didn’t happen and it kept on getting pushed back, pushed back, pushed back. For us to finally receive the keys, it was just a very exciting moment. I don’t think any of us slept the night before.”

Ponds was the first non-SECU employee to to walk through the building.

“That was so refreshing, so rewarding,” Ponds said.

The 8,500-square foot branch has high ceilings and plenty of lighting. In addition to a new customer kiosk, there’s also an airy waiting area for the credit union’s members. The offices are stocked with pictures from around Rowan County, like the Yadkin River and Cheerwine signs on downtown buildings. The branch features four drive-thru lanes as well as a drive-up ATM for quick, convenient service.

The branch will initially be staffed by 11 employees, including Cinquemani, a financial advisory specialist, two loan officers and seven financial services representatives.

Ponds said she believes the branch will be a “catalyst for change” and will further connect Granite Quarry to Salisbury by spurring more economic development in the area.

The branch will commemorate Monday’s opening with a few balloons and a visit from SECU’s “Fat Cat” — an orange and white feline mascot that advocates for youth saving’s accounts.

There are plans in the works, Cinquemani said, for a grander opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony in a few months.

SECU’s Granite Quarry location will be open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

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