Small Bank coming To Pel Bay

A Queens-based bank focused on small businesses will be expanding into the Bronx soon.

Alma Bank, which has its headquarters in Astoria, is planning to open its first branch in the borough at 1705 Crosby Avenue next month. It will be part of a limited number of small banks that focus on small business in the area, and the bank’s officials are hoping it will translate to big business.

“We are a commercial bank and we think we can make a meaningful contribution in Pelham Bay because we have an emphasis on small businesses while the other banks represent larger, multinational institutions,” chief planning officer Renos Kourtides said. “Big banks look at a one million or two million dollar loan as being small, but we as a community bank think this is a very big loan,” he added as an example.

While the facility still needs to be renovated and outfitted with banking equipment like computers, desks and phones, officials are planning a soft opening to work the kinks out of the system in late August. There will be a grand opening celebration in early September.

The roughly 20,000-square foot facility will include ATM services, several multi-lingual employees and a small parking lot, Kourtides said.

The company already has four locations in Queens and three in Brooklyn. The Bronx branch will be the eighth location, but the company is looking to continue expansion into Manhattan and New Jersey.

Since opening in 2007, the bank has focused on providing retailers, manufacturers and small businessowners with loans between $20,000 and $5 million. Kourtides said starting a bank after the country’s economic meltdown helped it to avoid the debts and bad loans that brought down many other banks in the past few years.

“We started in 2007, so we came into the field after the crisis had become apparent,” he said. “We remained unscathed, so we didn’t have any problem loans or sub-prime loans. In that sense we were lucky.”

Kourtides said he expects the new branch will be successful because it fits a need in a busy part of the borough.

“We know that it’s a business hub because the subway line starts from that area,” he said. “Our branch is going to have a small parking lot.”

For Kenneth Kearns, district manager of Community Board 10, a new bank opening up in Pelham Bay is a good omen.

“It shows that financial institutions believe it is commercially viable to operate in Pelham Bay, and that there’s a good base for business here,” he said. “It’s an indication that the area can support a bank, and the bank realizes that there is business to be had in the community. Another lender in the area is always positive.”

The bank, which is replacing a 99-cent store, will join CitiBank, HSBC and Ridgewood Savings Bank on Crosby Avenue.

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