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Associated Bank to close Jan.24

The Hammond branch of Associated Bank will close its doors for good on Jan. 24.

As the new year begins, a business long-open in Hammond will close, leaving some Hammond residents inconvenienced and out of options.

"For Hammond, it's a huge loss," said Hammond business owner Sandy Brecht, of Sandy Brecht Photography.

Associated Bank's Hammond branch will close on Jan. 24, leaving Hammond with no bank, and forcing Hammond residents to do their banking elsewhere.

The Hammond branch is one of 12 Associated Bank locations in Wisconsin and Illinois that are closing in January. Nicole Koremenos, public relations specialist for Associated Bank, said in an email that the branches chosen to be closed were selected because they are close to another branch location. The nearest location for Hammond is the Baldwin location, which is 4.5 miles away, according to Koremenos.

She said the move was due to an increase in online traffic and a decrease in branch traffic.

"Associated Bank is positioned for continued growth and is committed to continuing to invest in markets where we have significant potential," Koremenos said, "and in products and services that advance our strong customer relationships and leadership position throughout our footprint."

Brecht is among several Hammond business owners who said the bank's closing would merely inconvenience them.

"All we really do at the bank here is just cash checks and money orders," said Lori Anderson, business office manager for American Heritage Care Center. "Now we'll have to go to Baldwin three miles away."

But while it isn't hard for Anderson or Brecht to get to Baldwin, Brecht said it is difficult for those who don't or can't drive.

"I can use Baldwin Associated, but that really is not the point," Brecht said. "You want to support your town and that was probably one of our biggest businesses in town."

Anderson too said the bank's closure will be a loss to the Hammond community.

"It's been a fixture in the Hammond community for a long, long time," Anderson said. "It'll seem weird without it."

The bank's closure will also displace the Hammond Arts Alliance's Foster Art gallery, according to HAA Treasurer Paulette Anderson.

Not every Hammond business will be affected by the bank's closure this month. Parkside owner Dustin Anderson said he doesn't use Associated Bank, so nothing much will change for his business.

Justin Gustafson, bar manager at JJ's Sports Bar, said the closure won't affect JJ's much either, because the Baldwin branch isn't very far away.

Hammond Village Board Trustee Erin McComb said that while losing the bank is going to be difficult for the Hammond community, especially for those Hammond residents who will be out of jobs come Jan. 24, she said she is hopeful for the future.

"While this is an emotional blow today, to the residents and businesses of Hammond, I really want them to know that this isn't the end." McComb said.

She said Associated's decision to close the Hammond branch was related to the bank at large and not the Hammond branch. McComb said she is looking into finding other financial institutions that may be interested in opening a branch in Hammond. She said she has seen a lot of interest in Hammond so far.

"The bank was not underperforming.... It wasn't failing as a branch," McComb said. "Hammond is not in a bad place financially."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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