Mendota's Only Bank Closes

August 14, 2009 5:51:40 PM PDT
Businesses owners and residents in Mendota are bracing as the city's only bank is closing. The mayor says it's another sign his city and agriculture are suffering. The Westamerica branch is at the corner of 6th and Oller in Mendota. Employees closed its doors for the final time.

The drive-up window served Elvira Gallardo for the final time. She cashed her last check Friday afternoon at Mendota's Westamerica bank. Gallardo said in Spanish, "It is very necessary for them to have a bank." Most of the town's population works in the fields. Without a bank, they must rely on super markets to cash checks. Some tack on expensive fees.

A Firebaugh bank is the nearest one to Mendota, about 8 miles away. It is normally not a problem for most, but Mendota's unemployment rate is nearly 40-percent. Many residents simply can't afford to drive to Firebaugh.

Mendota's bank manager refused to talk with the media. Mayor Robert Silva expressed optimism that another institution will take over. Silva said, "Banks can leave. If they don't meet their expectations, they can leave. But we are looking for other banks. Banks have been more or less contacted. Hopefully we will have a bank here in Mendota."

Lupe Petry has been cutting hair in Mendota since 1961. She also banked at Westamerica. Now she will take her accounts out of town- another sign her community is suffering. Petry said, "I've seen a lot of the people complain about the work. They work one day. Maybe the next they don't work. The hours are short for them." With the bank's closure, Petry is wondering what and who else will leave her town.

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