American Bank likes business in downtown Waco so much it will expand into the former Jimmy John’s space at South Fourth Street and Franklin Avenue, which the sandwich shop left in December.

The bank, which has operated locally for more than 60 years, has signed a lease on about 1,500 square feet that Jimmy John’s occupied next door to the branch American Bank opened in 2013.

“American Bank is completely vested in the continued growth and success of Waco. We saw the opportunity downtown in 2013 and are proud to be part of the downtown Waco success story. Today we’ve executed the expansion of the opportunity we recognized early on,” bank president and CEO David Hicks said in a press release.

He said the bank, with assets of $440 million, will reopen the additional space in the fall.

The bank now will control about 3,500 square feet in Austin Avenue Flats, which has returned to full occupancy with American’s lease. The building also serves as home to more than 40 loft apartments and to Coach’s XXX Smoke, a barbecue restaurant.

John Maddox, general manager of Coach’s, said that area of Waco’s central city bustles with activity. It is near Heritage Square, Waco City Hall, the Waco Convention Center, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce headquarters and Austin Avenue, which has been targeted by developers in recent years.

“Our business is great,” Maddox said of Coach’s two years at that site. “We’re busy weekends, weekdays, all the time.”

American Bank, known by many for its “round” bank in Bellmead, was formed by the merger of American Bank and American National Bank in 1987. It can trace its roots to 1952 and the creation of Bellmead State Bank, which became American Bank when it moved into its distinctive new headquarters in 1979.

It also operates in American Plaza at 200 West State Highway 6.

The bank took space downtown across the street from the 7,500-square-foot banking center Wells Fargo built in 2009 after leveling the former Heart of Texas Council of Governments building.

Megan Henderson, executive director of Center City Waco, which champions downtown causes, called American Bank’s expansion “great news,” and said it has cultivated a successful location.

‘We moved quickly’

“When Jimmy John’s left, we jumped at the opportunity. We moved quickly, and now we’ll need to move quickly to design our new space,” Hicks said in an interview. “I think you will see additional offices to expand our lending function.”

He said the bank likely will assign a second lending officer to the location and could bring in another if demand dictates.

“We’ve had a good mixture of loans downtown,” Hicks said. “We’ve financed area professionals on a personal basis and have made quite a few small business loans, ranging from food trucks to apartments to everything in between. Perhaps surprisingly, we’ve had a decent level of consumer walk-in traffic from people who live and work in the area. These include a cross-section of young people, millennials, lawyers and city workers.”

He said the downtown bank is staffed with five people at any given time, and he expects to add two people to the team. The bank also will install remote video tellers for after-hours transactions.

“The key to any town is to have a vibrant downtown area, and we’ve certainly made progress in there and hope it continues,” Hicks said. “We’re glad to be right in the middle of it.”

Other banking institutions have seen the advantage of locating in downtown or near it. In 2014, Extraco Banks bought the former 1st University Credit Union building and opened a full-service bank there called the Extraco Banks Downtown Financial Center.

Meanwhile, McGregor-based TFNB Your Bank for Life has broken ground on a 12,000-square-foot location at 901 S. Eighth St.

Recommended for you