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WestStar to open Aspen branch

Allyn Harvey

Aspenites may soon have more choices about where to do their banking than tourists have in choosing their T-shirts.

Vail-based WestStar Bank will soon enter into one of the most crowded business markets in town, when it opens a new branch on Main Street later this spring.

It will become the seventh full-service retail bank in Aspen, giving locals direct access to a firm that has dished out about $25 million in real estate loans in the upper valley in the last 12 months.

Whether that’s a good thing, of course, depends on who is being asked.

For consumers looking for another place to deposit their money or negotiate a loan, it’s great news.

For WestStar, establishing a presence in Aspen’s $1 billion real estate market probably has the company’s senior executives dreaming of dollar signs each and every night.

But for the half-dozen banks already doing business here, adding to an already crowded field can’t be good news. After all, it’s not like people have to get their loans at the local bank.

“It’s very competitive, with local banks, national banks, stock brokerages that make loans and of course mortgage brokers,” says Community Bank of Aspen executive Howie Mallory.

WestStar was founded in 1979 in Vail, and has since opened 23 branches in counties across the Western Slope, including Garfield, Eagle, Summit, Grand, San Miguel and Montrose. The company also operates two branches in Denver.

Bank President Dan Goldec says it’s WestStar’s experience in resort economies like Vail and Telluride that makes the firm’s success here more than likely.

“I think we have a good understanding of the types of loans that work over here,” he says.

On one level, that means being able to deal with clients who don’t necessarily have the normal flows of income that bankers are used to dealing with. “We understand that a lot of our customers aren’t working a typical 9-to-5 job,” he said.

The new branch will be located at 400 E. Main St., across Mill Street from the Hotel Jerome, in what’s becoming Aspen’s banking district. U.S. Bank is down the street, Community Bank of Aspen is just around the corner and Norwest Bank is a block away.

Goldec said the branch will be managed by former Pitkin County Bank executive Dave Coflin, who has spent more than a year brokering loans in the upper valley for WestStar.

WestStar already has two branches in Glenwood Springs. It is traded on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol VAIL.


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