Lakeside State Bank’s decades-old dream of providing the core for the hottest retail intersection in this region of Rogers County is almost a reality. Nine months after the November opening of Apple Market at the US 169/Oklahoma 88 junction, the bank’s new home is expected to open next month. President and CEO Steve Savage says the transformation from vacant lots with a sign to thriving retail magnet seems meteorically fast but actually is the result of almost two decades of planning. The bank identified the land as a prime spot for growth in 1996 and bought it in 1997. As growth continued in the area, the No. 1 need for Oologah’s retail base was a full-service supermarket. A committee, of which Savage was a member, found a prospective grocer—whose consultants agreed that the 88/169 was the absolute best retail site in town. Bank officials weren’t sure they wanted to give up part of the land, but after lengthy negotiations they came up with a site plan that would allow both businesses to build.
The supermarket opened in November, and the exterior of the bank is almost completed, though considerable inside work remains. The new facility will feature modern services normally not available at an independent community bank, Savage said, with a friendly atmosphere where employees can still call their customers by name. It also will have a community meeting and gathering place that can be used even when the bank is not open. The facility, which will be locked off from the rest of the bank by an electronic system that uses programmable key cards, includes a large meeting room, kitchen and bathroom facilities and a large patio. While Oologah has a community building, it has never had a venue of this caliber. It also will be another reason for people to come to the new retail center—and for new businesses to take a hard look at Oologah. Savage believes that Oologah is on the verge of becoming a true retail hub. The new bank has state of the art electronic facilities built in, and offers a layout which will be far more efficient than the existing bank. There is one central lobby, and the various departments are set up so employees can see each other and monitor customer flow so customers get served quickly.
Even before the grand opening in August, Lakeside State Bank expects to be providing mobile banking, a service generally offered by major national banks. Savage said the system is now in the testing process. Again, long-range planning was the key. Lakeside State Bank and The First National Bank of Chelsea had the same ownership group, but one operated under a federal charter and the other under a state charter. Bring the two banks together under the Lakeside state charter, with Chelsea as a branch of Oologah, allowed a number of operations to be centralized. Even more important, Savage said, was the ability to comply with sharply increased regulation since 2008. By having one staff handling regulatory issues for both branches, the banks are better able to innovate. Savage has a big smile on his face as workers scurry to complete the job, not just because of what the new building will means for the bank but what the growing bank will mean for the community. Speaking of all the services it now or soon will offer, including mobile banking, he explains, “There are not a lot of banks at this level that have been able to do that. We’ve had some proactive technology …so we’re right up there with the big boys offering the same types of services.
“And then we feel like being in the community banking level like we are still able to recognize people when they come in and call them by name and do the personalized serve that they have come to expect from us.”