Merchants Welcome First Bank Move
The buzz in Lula's Cafe is something that owner Lula Poulos hasn't seen in 10 years of operating a restaurant in downtown Southern Pines.
"Over the last two days we have had about 20 customers ask us if we were excited to have First Bank as our new neighbors," Poulos said. "I said, 'Yes, we are very excited.' I think it will be a positive for our business and for all the businesses downtown."
First Bank on Tuesday announced it plans to move its corporate headquarters from Troy to Southern Pines. The headquarters will be located on the corner of SW Broad Street and Massachusetts Avenue in the Hobbs Upchurch & Associates building, which the company purchased last week for $2.65 million.
The total number of new workers downtown won't be huge - about 30 - but the prospect of serving top-level corporate executives and their guests has many Southern Pines businesses like Lula's excited.
Lula's Cafe is just across the street from the Hobbs Upchurch building, which is going to be the new corporate headquarters for First Bank. No timetable for the move has been announced, but the bank is expected to move in within 60 to 90 days.
"We've already talked about it as a staff," Poulos said. "We want to take care of them as best we can and make them feel welcome."
"This is pretty big news," said Claudia Miller, owner of Morgan Miller, located downtown.
Miller, who has had a business downtown for 15 years, said she can't recall another business opening or relocation that has generated as much buzz as the First Bank move has.
"Southern Pines has sort of evolved," she said. "Over the years one good restaurant opens, followed by a good business, just one good thing after another, and this is sort of the cherry on top."
Anthony Parks, owner of The Ice Cream Parlor, said bringing new people to downtown will be a plus, and having a known entity like First Bank, which is already a big part of the community, will be a boost to downtown.
Amy Natt, president of the Downtown Business Association, agrees
"First Bank has been an active part of the Southern Pines Business Association for many years," she said. "We welcome their corporate headquarters to the downtown community and are happy to see our area continue to attract such high caliber businesses."
First Bank Vice President Andrew Lyons has served on the SPBA Board as the past treasurer, and has been active in the community. Natt said if the corporate executives coming to Southern Pines are as customer-service oriented as Lyons, they will be a welcome addition.
And while the move will certainly have a positive impact on Southern Pines and its downtown, representatives from other towns are expecting the move to be beneficial for Moore County and the region.
"I absolutely think it (relocation) is a positive," said Natalie Dean, assistant village manager in Pinehurst. "I am glad they found a home in the Sandhills. I think it will be great for the whole region."
Dean said she hopes that the relocation could be a boost to the local real estate market.
"Another benefit is community involvement," Dean said. "I think the support First Bank will provide to nonprofit organizations and community events will only help to strengthen community spirit."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 964-9535 or tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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