DE SOTO — The Village of De Soto is looking for a bank. Village President John Evans said they were informed in December that First Mid Bank and Trust would be closing its De Soto Branch Office at 102 N. Chestnut St. (U.S. 51) in April.
A letter to customers dated Jan. 14 and signed by Robin Dean, regional deposit manager for First Mid, said the branch will consolidate with other First Mid banking centers at the close of business on April 16. The letter tells customers they have a variety of options available, including online and mobile banking, as well as visiting other banking centers in the area.
Evans had a conversation with bank officials and was told the bank did not have enough business. Traffic had declined since the beginning of the pandemic. Evans and Village Board members Paulette Johnson and Jennifer Morgan said the bank lobby has been closed much of that time.
“I guess they felt like they needed to tighten their belts, and we were the thing that got eliminated,” Evans said.
In response, the village formed an ad hoc Bank Committee to look into ways to draw another bank to the small town. Johnson is chairwoman of the committee. Members include Morgan, Evans, Lola Jones and Dana Thompson. The committee’s next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday in City Hall.
The bank first opened in De Soto in Alban’s Grocery Store in 1920. When it was going to close, a group of investors, primarily from De Soto, chartered Bank of De Soto in 1957. Bank of De Soto was bought by First National Bank of Carbondale in 1994. It consolidated again in 2000, this time with Old National Bank. In 2009, Old National sold their Southern Illinois banks to First Mid Bank and Trust.
Jones retired from the bank in 2008 after working there for nearly 44 years.
“It was a community gathering place as well as a bank,” she said.
“You knew the people at the bank and they knew you,” Johnson said.
Morgan said that familiarity creates trust that they just don’t have with an ATM or larger banking center. She occasionally leaves a deposit in the night deposit slot. She would not do that at the banks in Carbondale or Murphysboro.
Johnson has been a customer of the bank since 1964 when she and her husband got a loan to buy a mobile home when they first set up house.
Evans said the town has a high percentage of elderly residents, and they use the local bank. They may not have computers or smartphones to access online banking. He added that some people in town do not have access to good internet services.
Johnson said some elderly residents do not drive. Part of their routine is walking to the post office and bank.
The committee is not trying to convince First Mid to keep the banking center open. They believe that decision has already been made.
“What we’re really looking for or hoping for is for a smaller bank to put a branch here,” Jones said. “There is money to be made in this town for a bank.”