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Bank caters to 21st century customers

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

It was a win-win situation.

Commerce Bank gets the size of building it needs and location it wants, and Ellis County gets more office space in its new location.

Ellis County commissioners signed a letter of intent in June 2011 to purchase the Commerce Bank building at 718 Main in exchange for $1 million cash and county property located at 22nd and Vine. Commerce Bank is building its new bank at that location, and Tom Thomas, the bank's president, hopes to have the bank relocated by July 1.

"It's an 8,000-square-foot building, four drive-through lanes with a drive-through ATM," Thomas said. "We'll have access off 22nd street, we'll have access off Vine, and we'll have access off General Custer.

"It's the second-busiest intersection in Hays, (after) 27th and Vine. We're excited about the amount of traffic that goes up and down Vine."

The bank at its current location is just too big, Thomas said. When Farmers State Bank became Commerce Bank in 1993, there were 67 employees at its location on Main Street. The bank now has 17 employees at its 718 Main location, in part due to transferring some operations to the home office and also due to technological advances in the industry.

"The bank industry has changed tremendously in the last 20 years," Thomas said. "A lot more people doing banking online, not using the walkup teller service as frequently, doing their banking through the drive-through facilities and ATM.

"With that in mind, this building is much too large for us. The county is cramped at the courthouse, so we got together to see if they had any interest, and they did. Touring the community, looking for a new location for our building, that corner just jumped out at us, being centrally located in the middle of town. Vine Street made it attractive to us."

The bank was remodeled in 1984. Two businesses next to it were bought out, and the bank expanded to its current size.

Despite the move, Commerce Bank still will have its drive-through location downtown.

"It'll be a drastic change for us; looking forward to it," Thomas said.