Over the past decade, Chattanooga banks and credit unions have or soon will close nearly 20 percent of the 179 offices they operated in the 6-county metro region in 2009.
But while most financial institutions are pruning their branches, Chattanooga's biggest credit union continues to add more retail locations and hours — albeit in a different way than the typical bank monuments of the past.
The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) on Wednesday is opening its 18th branch in the new Food City on Highway 41, which opens to the public Wednesday.
Like the two other in-store branches that TVFCU has opened at remodeled Food City stores in Red Bank and Ooltewah, the new 630-square-foot credit union office is open extended hours and includes a small meeting area for opening accounts and getting loans or mortgages, and a pair of interactive teller machines (ITMs) that connect customers live via a computer screen with bank tellers at the TVFCU headquarters in downtown Chattanooga.
The new TVFCU branch in the Highway 41 Food City will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Saturday. The branch will include two or three tellers, officers or manager on staff at the store most of the time, along with two tvfcuLIVE interactive teller machines to allow members to complete basic over-the-counter transactions with a personal teller.
The remote teller service allows TVFCU to staff 42 ITMs across its 13-county footprint in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Four more ITMs are planned soon, according to Lisa Elrod, vice president of branch operations for TVFCU.
"This has allowed us to go into areas that might not warrant a full-scale branch but where we can serve our members, and hopefully pick up more members, with the convenience of an in-store branch," she said.
TVFCU opened its first in-store branch in the Red Bank Food City outlet and then added a similar in-store location at the Ooltewah Food City a month later.
"The members love the convenience of being able to do their grocery shopping and also easily getting their cash, or a loan or opening an account at the same place," said Valerie Gifford, senior vice president of retail operations.
The new credit union office is part of a the $10 million Food City supermarket that opens Wednesday on Highway 41, just across the state line in Georgia in Fort Oglethorpe. The new 49,700-square-foot store replaces the older and smaller Ringgold Road store a couple of miles south which Food City closed last April after its lease ran out.
Myron McCormick Jr., a 32-year veteran of Bi-Lo and Food City, is the manager of the new store — the second in Fort Oglethorpe. McCormick said the new location on Highway 41 has a Ringgold mailing address and is close to East Ridge so it should draw from all three area communities.
"The area residents in both Tennessee and Georgia have certainly been supportive of our company and we're extremely excited to provide our loyal customers with a new, state-of-the-art Food City," Food City President Steve Smith said during an unveiling of the new store Tuesday night.
The new Highway 41 store includes a pharmacy, expanded grocery, frozen food and produce department and in-store bakery, deli and cafe that features deluxe fresh food bar, soup, wings, salad and fruit selections.
The store is open 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week and will be staffed by up to 150 full- and part-time workers, Smith said. The new Food City also includes a Food City Gas N' Go with five pump stations, including diesel fuel, which is expected to begin service in about two weeks.
The Food City Floral Boutique is staffed with a designer seven days per week, offering a full assortment of fresh-cut floral arrangements, bouquets, gift items and more. Rapid checkout service is provided by six traditional check-out lanes and four self-check-outs.
The new store will also offer the added convenience of GoCart curbside pick-up. Customers can select their purchases on-line at foodcity.com and their order will be filled by a shopper and loaded into their vehicle when they arrive at the store. Payment can be made on-line or by credit or debit card at the time of pick-up.
The Fort Oglethorpe store opening Wednesday comes a week after Food City opened a similar size store in Dalton and comes a couple of months after Food City opened a replacement store on Mission Ridge in Rossville, Georgia. Smith said Food City is under construction with a remodeling and expansion of its store in Lafayette, Georgia, which should open later this year.
Headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia, Food City's parent company — K-VA-T Food Stores — operates 131 retail outlets throughout southeast Kentucky, southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, Chattanooga and north Georgia.