KAPAA — When Phil Fudge arrived late for the grand re-opening celebration of Gather Federal Credit Union’s Kapaa office on Saturday morning, he received a standing ovation.
For that, he can thank Walton Hong, chair of GFCU’s board of directors.
Earlier, Hong pointed out the ceremony was delayed because one of the directors, Fudge, was late, and they were waiting for him.
“If he shows up, everybody stand up and clap,” Hong said.
About five minutes later, Fudge rolled up in his SUV and, as directed, the crowd of about 75 stood, clapped and cheered.
Afterward, Fudge could only shake his head and laugh.
“It’s a little embarrassing, but it’s funny,” he said, smiling
Inside the remodeled office, Fudge liked the spacious feel and design.
“I think it’s beautiful,” he said.
It was a fun, festive, family affair with free refreshments, prizes, music and food and drink, too.
People mingled around waiting to see the interior designed by architect Marc Ventura that included new LED lighting, flooring, air conditioning, teller pods and an in-lobby teller machine. Outside improvements included a new parking lot, roofing and dual drive-ups.
“As a community-chartered credit union, we are extremely proud of our newly renovated branch and humbled by the significance of this occasion,” said Tess Shimabukuro, Gather FCU president and CEO. “We hope that this branch reaffirms our commitment to you our members, our love of our community, and our longevity as the largest credit union home grown on Kauai.”
Gather has four branch offices, with the main office at Kukui Grove Center. The Kapaa building, nearly 30 years old, was in need of updating, Hong said.
“As the board of directors, we have to keep an eye on what’s going on and we recognize the growing demand for services out of this Kapaa office,” he said.
The board reviewed what could be done to make the site more efficient and best serve members. Next, the decision was made to invest in the remodel at Gather’s busiest branch, which employs 13.
“It wasn’t easy to do this project because we had an ongoing business,” Hong said. “We just couldn’t shut it down. We had to work around the office, the people.”
But the Shioi Construction team, led by Brian Davis, pulled off the project that took a little over a year to complete.
The wait was worth it.
“When I walked in there this morning, I was like, ‘wow,’” Hong said.
Shimabukuro pointed out the roof and AC system were completely redesigned and replaced to extend the life of the building for decades. Teller work stations and loan counselor’s areas were upgraded. A new weather proof vestibule for the ATM and night drop was installed.
To modernize the building, Shioi remodeled an ADA-compliant restroom, installed accessible doors, sidewalks, entries and parking aisles. It also put in open storefront offices and a wood ceiling with concealed lighting.
“As you walk through the office, you will experience new technologies that give employees and members the latest and greatest operations and aesthetics,” Shimabukuro said.
Hong said GFCU is committed to providing the best finance services it can and is planning to open an office later this year in Kilauea.
“It’s not just borrowing and lending money,” he added.
“All of you as members share ownership. Just remember, credit union members are all owners of the entity,” Hong said. “So all of you out here can say, ‘I own a piece of the action’ right here behind me.”
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.