Bank plans branch for Snow Shoe

The bank is leaving, they read in a letter. It was the town’s only one.

Snow Shoe residents will soon hear a different refrain. Months after First National Bank announced it was consolidating the branch with its Bellefonte location, another applicant has stepped in to fill the void. Jersey Shore State Bank, of Williamsport, plans to bring a branch to Snow Shoe within six months, regional President Craig Russell said, allaying fears of residents who have grown accustomed to the bank’s brick-and-mortar location.

A bank has existed in the town since World War I.

“I just think it’s a win-win for everybody,” Russell said. “It fits our footprint; it fits our culture.”

In a public notice dated Oct. 12, Jersey Shore State Bank filed an application for a letter of authority to establish a branch at 491 Sycamore Road, the address for grocer and hardware store Hall’s Market. Letters were filed with both the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. JSSB will need approval from both organizations to move forward, a process that typically takes up to 90 days, Russell said.

“They’ve indicated they’ll expedite it,” he added, “because they know the need of the Snow Shoe area.”

The bank is working with Hall’s owners to establish a branch connected to the popular market, a hub for the small town of about 800. The groups are looking at temporary options until the paperwork is finalized and the branch is built.

“All the businesses and clubs up here — they all rely on their change, nickels, dimes, quarters, and I do, too,” co-owner Troy Hall told the Centre Daily Times in August. “And if you just need to get five rolls of quarters or something, what are you going to do?”

His and the town’s pleas have been heard.

“We’re all pleased that a financial institution wants to move back into Snow Shoe,” Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins said. “Because without a financial institution there, it becomes what’s called a ‘banking desert.’ ”

A “banking desert,” Higgins explained, is an area where the closest branch is at least a 15-minute drive away. Without a replacement, Snow Shoe residents would have about a 40-minute round trip to and from FNB’s Bellefonte branch.

JSSB President and CEO Richard Grafmyre worked in Snow Shoe during the early 1970s — out of the same office that is closing. Grafmyre, a Milesburg native, discussed the location with Russell and the pair agreed it would be a good fit. Three weeks ago, Russell met with a group of about 60 residents at the Mountaintop Area Elementary School to gauge interest in the bank. The returns were promising.

“I already have people opening up accounts in our other offices from that area,” he said.

Russell credited Snow Shoe borough, Centre County government and commissioners, Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, and the town’s residents for working together to bring a bank back to Snow Shoe. But for the move to be a success, he said, it will take just that: a town. The community may be small, but its impact is not insignificant.

“We need their support,” Russell said. “There’s enough there for us to make it work, but we need the commitment from the community that they’re going to bank with us.”

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy