Penn. CU Finds Its Building Inspiration From (Not In) Tavern

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The credit union where "everybody knows your name," not surprisingly, is located in a building that looks suspiciously like a tavern.

But not just any tavern. Lebanon FCU's main building, as well as its branch, are patterned after the King's Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg.

"When the credit union started, it was in my home. When it came time to build a facility, I wanted it to feel like you're walking into someone's living room," explained Treasurer Patricia Hain. "When I talked with Bob Hoffman (of Beers, Schillaci & Hoffman architectural firm), we talked about modeling it after the King's Arms Tavern. Turns out he's a big fan of Williamsburg, just like I am."

The building, so stand-out different from the typical financial institution, has become a part of the $74-million credit union's identity, and its image is included in one form or another on all of LFCU's marketing materials.

The credit union that got its start out of Hain's house quickly outgrew the building and had to erect a second facility. Though slightly different due to the lot on which it's built, the second building also has a Williamsburg feel to it.

"We use the building in our billboards, all our marketing materials, cups, mugs. So when it came time to build a second one, I knew I wanted it to look much the same so that when you see it, you say, 'Ah, there's the credit union.' Kind of like McDonalds," Hain commented. "I knew it was working when my young daughter saw the (second building) as we drove past and said, 'Hey, it's a credit union.'"

The way Hain got her start in the credit union movement is almost as unique as the facility she envisioned. "I was a banker, actually. My husband was one of the founding members of the credit union back in 1969. He told me the board wanted to make me treasurer, but I said I didn't want that. I didn't know what a credit union was. I wanted to stay at the bank," she recalled. "Then, when I went into labor and went to the hospital they voted me in as treasurer, and when the delivery was over and I came home, my husband told me, 'Guess what, they made you the treasurer.' "

Hain, who was a loan officer at the time, wasn't thrilled with her new vocation-until she saw what a credit union was and what a difference there was. It's a difference that isn't lost on others, either. "When my former boss (from the bank) stopped by after we opened the new building, he saw how friendly everyone was at the credit union and how we knew most everyone's name, and he said to me, 'This is just what the banks used to be like.' And that was before they became the cold, marble, profit-driven institutions they are today."

Which is exactly why Lebanon FCU looks like anything but a bank. "It's homey, it's just like coming into someone's home," Hain related. "Members feel like it's theirs. And it is."

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