TCF Financial Inc. plans to expand for the first time outside its Midwest base, following a supermarket partner into the Rocky Mountains.

Its plan to open at least seven branches in existing supermarkets in Denver and Colorado Springs by the end of next year follows a strategy the $7 billion-asset Minneapolis thrift company inaugurated last spring in Ohio. Then, it entered Columbus through three grocery store locations.

TCF president and chief operating officer Lynn Nagorske said he hopes the new branches, which will be in Cub Foods stores, would be a "springboard" for a bigger presence in Colorado.

The move into Colorado is a departure for TCF, which had been focused solely on expansion in the Midwest. Indeed, Mr. Nagorske said his company would not have considered entering the state had Cub Foods, a warehouse discount grocer, not invited it to open branches in its new stores there.

TCF has 47 grocery store branches in five states, mostly in the Cub Foods chain.

"Cub asked us to come there, and the Denver market is growing rapidly," Mr. Nagorske said. "I don't think we would have made a conscious decision to go there otherwise."

Mr. Nagorske said he hoped to open branches in further new Cub Foods stores, and he mentioned the possibility of opening branches in other supermarket chains and acquiring a small bank in the Denver or Colorado Springs areas.

Though Denver is a long way from Minneapolis, Mr. Nagorske said, his company is attracted to the city's fast-growing economy and urban demographics. TCF is the quintessential blue-collar bank, offering free checking accounts and marketing itself to working-class customers in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Analysts said TCF may be able to exploit an untapped niche market in Denver.

"Are there any good blue-collar banks in Colorado?" asked analyst Ben Crabtree of Dain Bosworth Inc., Minneapolis. Other banks in the market, such as First Bank System Inc., cater to higher-income customers, he said.

Mr. Crabtree said he views TCF's entry into Colorado as a low-cost experiment to tap a potentially lucrative market.

"I've always thought the grocery-store strategy was a cheap way to enter a new market and build a customer base," he said. "It makes it easier to make an acquisition later."

Kevin Seggelke, a division director for Cub Foods in Colorado, said his company would like to add up to six new stores in the next year. TCF would be given first chance to open branches in those stores. "It's our understanding TCF will grow as we grow in the market," Mr. Seggelke said.

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