Member Response Indicates Facility Is On The Right Track
Few credit union buildings manage to capture the very heart and soul of a CU's membership as Clinchfield FCU's facility has done.
In fact, the railroad credit union's building, modeled after the old train depot in which the CU got its start 57 years ago, is so special that people have actually been known to join CFCU simply because they wanted to see the inside of the building.
"We were in the old depot for many years, but we outgrew the space we had there," said Sandy Lingerfelt, CEO of the $52-million credit union. "It got so we had two people who had to work off the corner of my desk for two years."
Then CFCU moved to an old house, converting the front porch into the lobby. But it wasn't long before the 6,100-member credit union outgrew that space, as well, and finally decided to start from scratch and build a brand-new facility of its very own in 1997.
While the credit union's board and management knew exactly what they wanted, and hired a local architect who shared their vision, there was one challenge, and it was a doozey: finding the right brick.
"The trend out here is going toward the orange, clay brick, and we really wanted the more red brick. We weren't happy with any of the brick we saw in the showroom," Lingerfelt related. "Our building is made entirely of Old Nashville Brick. I had to go out to the old brickyard to find it."
Having gotten its start with the Clinchfield Railroad, CFCU has stayed true to its roots, despite the fact that its original sponsor no longer exists. The sponsor was merged with Seaboard Systems and then merged again with CSX, so staying close to railroad employees made good sense.
"This is a railroad town. Most of the county either works for the railroad or is related to someone who does," she noted. "Clinchfield is the reason we are where we are today, and we are very beholden to them."
One of the most distinguishing features about the building is the old railway crossing signal located right in front. "When we're open, we turn the red lights on, and they stay on for as long as we're open," Lingerfelt related. "When our lights burn out, we just call down to the signal depot, and they come and change our lights for us."
The train motif is carried inside, as well, where a toy train travels around the ceiling of the lobby. A drop ceiling in one section of the lobby even allows for the train to go through a tunnel.
"Of course, the children love the train, and they'll come in and chase after the train and follow it all through the lobby," she commented. "But I think the adults-especially the retired railroad workers-love the train every bit as much as the children."
If the toy train doesn't get you, the rocking chairs by the fireplace will-enticing members to take a load off and just relax in the credit union's lobby.
"When we built this building, a lot of experts said our lobby traffic would decrease and our drive-through traffic would increase, but that didn't happen here. We do have a lot of drive-through traffic, but we still have a lot of traffic come into the lobby, too, because people just like to come inside," Lingerfelt offered. "We have people come in and join just because they wanted to come inside our building."
And it's not just the members who like the building. "I love coming here to work every day," Lingerfelt said. "We've been in this building since 1997, and you know most times, after you've been in a place a while, even when it's a place you designed from scratch, there are things you'd like to change. We haven't changed a thing. There's nothing I would change about this place. Every day is an adventure."