Grove Bank declared its independence Wednesday, and the tiny Massachusetts thrift paid a price: nearly one-quarter of its market value disappeared in a heavy selloff.

Grove announced it had decided against selling, and would instead continue as a community bank. sending its stock plummeting $7.75 a share, to close at $22.75.

In June the company retained Goldman Sachs & Co. as its investment adviser after being approached by suitors.

Grove President Thomas R. Venables said that the company had reviewed several merger proposals, but decided to keep the $458-million-asset bank independent.

"We spent the summer going through all our alternatives and we decided that this was our best option," he said.

Investors had bid the price as high as $33 last month with expectations that the bank could sell for $40 to a New England regional.

But Wednesday they dumped their shares as fast as they could with the more than 600,000 shares traded more than 1400% of normal trading volume.

The day before only 12,700 shares exchanged hands.

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