SuffolkFirst heads north

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2006

In 2001, when Bank of Suffolk merged with BB&T, Suffolk lost its only hometown community bank.

Seeing the void this left in the city, local business leaders Jonie Mansfield, Jim Turner, Larry Felton, Johnnie Mizelle, Peter Jackson, George Barnett, and Bill Webb came together to formulate a plan to give the community its own bank.

By the end of that year, plans were in the works to open the bank and the team began the arduous task of creating it.

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The planning and hard work paid off.

On Jan. 27, 2003, SuffolkFirst Bank opened at its Bosley Avenue premises, and was ready to serve the residents of Suffolk.

Since its beginning, SuffolkFirst Bank has kept its focus on giving Suffolk residents the highest quality of personal service. Per the company Web site, the bank’s mission is &uot;To be recognized as a leader in our community by focusing on personal service to our customers … (and their) pledge is to treat each customer with courtesy and respect, and to provide superior service and solutions, regardless of the transaction size.&uot;

To date, less than four years since its debut, the bank has more than 1,500 shareholders and 6,000 customer accounts.

Such high demand for SuffolkFirst Bank’s services allowed the facility to expand to a second location on North Main Street in 2004. Now, the bank is taking on a third branch location, at the intersection of Shoulders Hill Road and Route 17, next to the new Farm Fresh shopping center.

The opening marks a declaration of not only the bank’s growth, but the growth of North Suffolk as well. To get the building process under way, bank officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday and introduced their new incentive for their customers. The bank officials debuted a buried treasure chest; the chest is estimated to have thousands of dollars of local &uot;treasure&uot; locked inside.

Any customer of SuffolkFirst Bank who opens a new checking and savings accounts, new certificates of deposits, or gets a new loan is given a key. When the third branch officially opens in September 2007, whoever has the winning key to the chest wins all of its contents.

&uot;This is an exciting event for SuffolkFirst Bank,&uot; Darrell Swanigan, president of SuffolkFirst Bank said in a press release for the event. &uot;Our new location will serve the growing northern Suffolk area, and we feel the groundbreaking, with treasure chest, is a fresh, innovative approach to reward all our customers.&uot;

According to Swanigan, the treasure chest is a symbol representing the treasures in store for the future customers of SuffolkFirst Bank.

At the groundbreaking, board members and employees alike joined in celebrating the new location, which served as a reminder to the dedication and insight shared by the original Board of Directors and a look to the bank’s future.

&uot;A little less than four years ago, we started with opening our bank and beginning with 10 million (dollars) capital,&uot; Swanigan told the crowd. &uot;Prior to that, the Board of Directors had the vision Suffolk needed a community bank.

“We’ve had some hardships to get here today … there are many, many people involved to get this here. We ask for God’s blessings as SuffolkFirst Bank goes forward.&uot;