After more than twenty years as part of the financial support system for Wichita’s Northeast community, the Commerce Bank at 21st and Grove will close at the end of the year.

“It was a very difficult decision to make,” said Monte Cook, president and CEO Commerce Bank Wichita.

The bank opened in 1997 as part of the 21st Street Corridor revitalization. As payday loans and check cashing stores expanded across the community, the bank was a welcome staple, one of just a handful of full-service financial institutions in the predominately Black northeast Wichita community.

Technology changes during the past 21 years have driven traffic outside of branches and online, to mobile phones, and ATMS. The changes have caused branch traffic to decline.

“This location started with a very small population of customers and it really didn’t grow,” Cook told us.

To help keep the branch profitable, Cook says they reduced the branch hours and the staff to just three employees. Even with those changes, Cooks says it’s no longer financially feasible to operate the branch.

A full-service ATM will remain at the location.

“It should be able to handle 90% of their banking needs,” says Cook. There’s a full-service Commerce Bank in Wichita State University’s Rhatigan Student Center, but Cook says he realizes it’s difficult to access. The next nearest branch is at 13th and Woodlawn to the east or the downtown branch, at 456 N. Main, to the west.

No need to worry about an empty building at the corner, Commerce is gifting the building to two community-based non-profits. With details on the transfer still to be worked out, Cook wasn’t ready to reveal the organization’s names, just yet. What he did say, is he’s feels strongly about the ability of the organizations to help transform the community.

“We got into this community 21 years ago because we believed in the community. We wanted to make sure the building still transforms and still helps the community,” says Cook. “These are two very strong, service organizations. I believe these non-profits will be able to transform their organizations as well as the community. I believe it (the old branch building) is going to be a tremendous hub for the community.”

This isn’t just a transfer of use, it’s a transfer of ownership. Commerce is transferring ownership of the building to the non-profits. In addition, they’ll pay a lease fee to keep their ATM on the site.

I’m extremely proud of who they are and what they’re doing and I’m very excited about it, as much as I hate that we’re closing,” Cook concluded.

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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