Chessie to close downtown branch

Jan. 22—CUMBERLAND, Md. — Motivated by a move to upgraded and renovated facilities, Chessie Federal Credit Union on Monday will close its 141 Baltimore St. branch downtown.

At that time, the institution, which has been in business for 75 years, will reopen its nearby 122 Union St. drive-through and walk-up facility that has been expanded from three to five lanes.

Scott Kline, Chessie's CEO and president, said the choice to close the downtown branch didn't come easy.

"It was a hard decision to make," he said.

Kline said he and Chessie's seven-member board of directors will consider what to do with the 37,000-square-foot building sometime this year.

"We really haven't decided," he said and added that the city's plans to reopen part of the downtown pedestrian mall to traffic didn't impact the choice to close the Baltimore Street branch. "That wasn't really in the decision making process at all."

Chessie has occupied the downtown branch since 1988.

Roughly five employees that work at the site on the first floor will move to other branches.

The building's basement and second floor are unoccupied, Kline said.

The institution in 2013 "did a massive remodel job" at its 15 Commerce Drive branch, he said.

At that time, 45 employees were moved from downtown to the renovated site, which became Chessie's main office.

In 2021, Chessie merged with Kelco Federal Credit Union, which added 3,000 customers, whom Kline refers to as "members," at 321 Greene St.

That site was also remodeled, and includes a new mortgage department.

"Real estate has been hard hit," Kline said of the the market's struggles due to rising interest rates that began last year. "Our (mortgage) numbers are down just a little bit. We're holding our own."

Today, Chessie, which is independent and federally insured, has 38,000 members, $435 million in assets, six offices in Maryland, two West Virginia branches and roughly 95 workers.

"The employees are the bread and butter of Chessie," Kline said.

Workers and members have been resilient and patient, especially over the past couple of years during the pandemic, he said.

Business is "better now than it ever has been," Kline said.

Local downtown business officials Friday were optimistic about Chessie's future.

"From what I have seen, banks and credit unions are finding more customers using drive-thru locations rather than walk-in locations," Becky McClarran, Downtown Cumberland Business Association marketing chair, said via email.

"I find it similar to both Truist and M&T Bank's decision to move all their banking services to smaller but still convenient locations," she said. "And Chessie is not losing both walk-in and drive-thru capabilities, as well as ATM services."

As for what will happen to the Baltimore Street location, McClarran is hopeful it can be converted "into a great space" for a new business.

"Chessie has always been supportive of events in our community," she said. "In fact, Chessie has just become a silver sponsor for the Hooley Plunge."

Downtown Development Commission Executive Director Melinda Kelleher said her organization is in touch with the credit union and will be available to help when decisions are made for the future of the Chessie building.

"While we are always disappointed when a downtown business ceases storefront operations, we are glad to see that Chessie will offer newly renovated drive-thru and walk-up banking in their parking lot behind the building," she said via email.

HistoryChessie's history, published on its website

, started with nine men that formed Cumberland B&O Employees Federal Credit Union with $65, and received a charter granted by the federal government in January 1948.

Operating from an office in the Queen City Station basement, the credit union grew to 582 members and assets of $21,668.08 by the end of that year.

Over the years as the credit union grew, it moved its office to Harrison Street in 1952, Paca Street in 1967, and Baltimore Street in 1988.

It also merged several times with institutions including Wes-Mar Federal Credit Union of Hagerstown in 1975, Sacred Heart Hospital Federal Credit Union of Cumberland in 1987, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 Federal Credit Union of Cumberland in 1988.

That year, it purchased and renovated the former First Federal Savings Bank building on Baltimore Street and changed its name to Chessie Federal Credit Union.

"Currently, we serve members who are in the fields of transportation, education, local government, retailing, health care, manufacturing, publishing, building trades, food services and computer software as well as members of several churches and volunteer fire departments," the website states. "As we continue to grow, we will strive to offer the best services available, to fulfill our commitment of 'people helping people.'"

Teresa McMinn is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or