The $350,000 redesign puts a new face on the venerable local bank, which was established in 1871, and is a testament to its continued vitality. While each day brings headlines of troubled small banks across the country, Sawyer Savings Bank, which has locations in Highland and Marlboro, is thriving.
The secret? There’s more than one, says Sottile, and you can’t bottle them: humility, common sense and concern for the customer. “Your customer should always be bigger
in your mind than you,” he said. “A lot of other bankers seem to lose touch. They think it’s their money and they don’t have a clear sense of where the line is.”
The renovation, designed by Edmond G. Loedy Architecture of Millbrook, serves to create a more open feeling inside the bank. The ceiling in the main banking area is recessed, and there’s a new central island where customers can prepare paperwork. The service officers area, formerly framed with standard-issue cubicles, is now outlined with low partitions of wood and glass. The ceiling in this area is lower, which creates a more intimate space. A complementary coffee machine greets customers as they enter the bank’s lobby.
Aside from design changes, everything just feels new – like a crisp dollar bill. Furniture, the computer system, the rugs, the tile floors – “Everything is new,” said branch manager Jenn Guthiel-Denier.
Sottile said the bank used local contractors wherever possible. Most were bank customers. GNS Construction was the general contractor, Sal DeSicco did the woodwork, and Gen-Tile installed the tile floors. Workers had some difficulty with the floor, as it was composed of thick, steel-reinforced concrete that once protected a fallout shelter. After burning out several drills, workers brought in special equipment to get the job done.
Sottile said customers stay loyal to the bank because it’s trustworthy. Employees of Sawyer Savings do not receive commission, he said, so there’s no potential for conflict of interest when they give advice. Loan officers don’t feel pressured to sell mortgages that customers may not be able to afford, said Sottile. In fact, the bank has foreclosed on only three homes over the last ten years.
“The customer never has to worry about whose side we are on,” said Sottile. “Our customers are our neighbors, and we try to remember that.”