Opinion

AMB’s legacy: The straw that stirred a community | In Our Opinion | Feb. 5

Unfortunately, small, community-centric banks have quickly become victims of the current real estate downturn, with the island’s loss of American Marine Bank being a distressing example. A mention of the bank’s failure to a longtime resident earlier this week caused her to tear up. She had lost a loved one and found it hard to express her feelings.

In recent years, AMB had become less of a dominant force in the island’s financial scene as several other institutions opened branches in town. But there were still many islanders who never switched their allegiance, partly because the bank’s community involvement had not waned. Such loyality may be difficult to understand unless you’ve walked into a bank where everyone knows you by your first name and you get the feeling they’d let you count cash in the vault if you asked. It’s pretty special.

A shareholder, who had opened an AMB account before actually moving here decades ago, said he considered cashing out when it became obvious the bank was teetering on the edge. But he just couldn’t do it, thinking that if he acted, others might follow his lead and any hope of recovery would be squelched.

Of course, there’s always a degree of bitterness and anger when a trust is broken by the failure of a valued business, when an employee, for example, loses significant amounts of money that he or she invested in the company’s 401(k) plan.

That’s especially true for a financial institution that’s been around for 61 years and perhaps had espoused a falacious air of invincibility. Rather than placing blame, however, it could be that AMB’s failure was, alas, just an inevitable sign of the times.

Eddie Rollins, who was hired by founder Lou Goller to keep customers happy in a public relations dream job, knows that all that’s left are the memories. He’s “very disappointed” how it turned out, but, at 89, he also knows nothing lasts forever and he had the good fortune to work there during the glory years.

“I knew everyone in town in those days,” he said. “And everyone knew me. It was a wonderful job."

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