Wells Fargo & Company, headquartered in San Francisco, announced the closure of its Kutztown branch in a letter to clients.
In the letter, dated Aug. 17, 2020, Wells Fargo announced the closure of the Kutztown branch, located at 301 W. Main St., on Nov. 18, 2020, at noon. The branch is currently closed due to COVID-19.
“Thank you for being a valued Wells Fargo customer. We are committed to keeping you informed of changes that may affect you. As we work to provide convenient banking options, occasionally we need to make changes to our branch network by opening and closing locations,” reads the letter.
“This change will not affect your accounts, and we invite you to visit other locations as well as take advantage of additional convenient ways to bank with us, including Wells Fargo Online banking and the Wells Fargo Mobile app,” reads the letter. For more information, visit www.wellsfargo.com/always open.
In a statement to MediaNews Group, James Baum, media contact at Wells Fargo for Pennsylvania, said, "While branches continue to be important in serving our customers’ needs, we’re finding that customers are often using our wide range of digital capabilities for many of their banking needs. As a result, more transactions are happening outside the branch."
Baum explained that the Kutztown branch originally closed in March as part of Wells Fargo's enterprise-wide decision to temporarily reduce the number of bank branches that operated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Since then, we have made the decision not to re-open this branch and encourage our customers to use our other nearby Wells Fargo locations," he said.
By the end of 2020, Wells Fargo will have approximately 12 fewer branches in Pennsylvania than they did at the beginning of the year. There will still be close to 250 branches in the state as well as 449 ATMs, said Baum.
Regarding the Kutztown branch employees, he said, "In any branch closure, we typically see a mix of employees who move to other positions in the company, retire, or receive a severance package."
Wells Fargo will be selling the building.
In response to the news of the Kutztown branch closure, Kutztown Mayor Jim Schlegel said, “I'm not sure how much of an impact the closure of the Wells Fargo Bank will have in Kutztown. I'm sure there were some folks and students from town who banked there. There probably were not enough to make it worthwhile for Wells Fargo to keep it open.”
Schlegel noted that Kutztown has five other banks.
“I remember when Kutztown had two banks and one Savings & Loan, so there was a lot of competition for the Farmer's Office.”
Schlegel added, “I'm sure there are a few disgruntled customers that either have to go to a different Wells Fargo (branch) or switch banks.”
The building of the Wells Fargo Kutztown branch has strong roots in Kutztown.
“Wells Fargo Bank on the corner of Whiteoak and Main streets is still called ‘The Farmer’s Bank’ by those of a certain age,” explained Craig Koller of the Kutztown Area Historical Society. “The building was constructed by the Farmer’s Bank & Trust in 1921 using the stone from the Pennsylvania House, which occupied that corner from 1841 until it was razed to build the bank.”
Koller said that records show this property hosted a hotel before 1800, the first of which was built by George W. Fister and run by several generations of Levans. The Pennsylvania House was built in 1841 by Charles Kutz.
“The first floor had a large dining room that hosted many town meetings, while the second floor contained rooms for overnight guests,” he said.
Other owners and operators on record include Nicholas Bower (Bauer), Ed. Seckel, James Frey, Frank Fritz, William D. Gross, Henry Bauer, and George P. and Alice (Hilbert) Angstadt.
The Angstadts razed the building in 1921, making way for the new Farmer’s Bank building. Before moving, the Farmer’s Bank was housed at 311 W. Main, which is currently part of the Adam & Eve building, said Koller.
“The bank was victim to a fire on April 6, 1979. Although it was badly damaged (the bank operated out of 277 W. Main), it was repaired and resumed business in the fall of 1979.”
After the Farmer’s Bank, the building was home to Hamilton Bank, First Union Bank, and Wachovia.
“Inside are beautiful murals of the local area painted by a local artist (Bucks County artist E.H. Clevenger). On April 6, 1979 it caught fire. The Kutztown Fire Company managed to save the building and the murals inside,” said Schlegel.
With the closure of the Wells Fargo Kutztown branch, Schlegel has high hopes for the building’s future.
“Hopefully another bank will move in. At the very least it is hoped the bank (building) will see new owners who preserve the magnificent structure and murals.”