Haven Bancorp will quintuple its New York City-area branch network with its deal to open 44 full-service branches in Pathmark supermarkets.

The bold in-store branching push allows the $1.6 billion-asset holding company for Columbia Federal Savings Bank to extend its network widely but cheaply, thrift officials said.

"Supermarket branching provides Columbia a cost-effective way to extend our franchise and to put our sales force in contact with more prospective customers than we could via traditional bank branches," said chief executive Philip S. Messina.

The in-store branches will offer all of Columbia's deposit and loan products. The average size will be 400 square feet. For the most part, they will be open seven days a week, with evening hours.

The arrangement is an exclusive one designed to link both brand names for metropolitan-area customers. Should Pathmark decide to expand into other parts of New York State, Woodhaven-based Columbia has first right of refusal to open further in-store branches.

The first such office will be opened in Brooklyn in mid-November, and four will be opened by yearend. Of the 44 in-store banking offices, 15 will be in New York City, where Columbia now has nine of its 11 branches.

Columbia plans to hire about 300 employees to staff the branches during the next three years. Cathy Califano, chief financial officer, said the thrift is working with regulators to develop a streamlined new-branch approval process to achieve the speedy deployment it wants.

Pathmark recently signed a similar deal with Summit Bancorp for its New Jersey stores.

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