Peach Buzz Spring 2024

Vol. 14 | Spring 2024  

Community Banks

Supporting Main Street and Local Economies

Community banks are at the heart of a local economy.

Community banks like Peach State Bank play a vital role in the success and growth of local communities across America.

With our commitment to reinvesting local dollars back into the community through loans, our bank helps create jobs and foster economic development.

“The goal is to take in deposits and lend them back out through loans within the community,” says Andy Stewart, Peach State Bank Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer.

As the only locally owned bank in Hall County, our relationship-banking philosophy, centered around personalized service and one-on-one interactions, sets us apart from larger financial institutions that are based elsewhere.

“There are some loans we do that big banks won’t touch. Knowing our customers allows us to do that,” Stewart says. “Also, when loans are properly structured, you can eliminate a lot of risk — such as a loan to purchase a house with a simultaneous loan for renovation. That’s something I’ve helped a lot of people out with.”

Community banks prioritize the needs of their customers and the well-being of their communities. By providing loans and financial services to small businesses, community banks help these enterprises thrive and expand. This, in turn, leads to job creation and a stronger local economy.

The impact of community banks goes beyond just businesses. Families also benefit from our services, as community banks help finance major purchases and provide the necessary support to build financial security. Whether it’s buying a home or financing the startup or expansion of a business, community banks are there every step of the way, offering personalized guidance and tailored solutions.

The unique relationship between a community bank and its customers is what sets us apart. Unlike larger institutions that often treat customers as mere numbers, we take the time to understand each customer’s needs and goals. This personalized approach fosters trust and loyalty, creating long-lasting relationships that benefit both the bank and the community.

Community is not just a word to us. Many of our bank staff are Hall County natives or have made this area their home. We sponsor local events like the Arts Council Summer Music Series and serve on nonprofit boards. We also host our own events that instill local connectivity and community like our popular BLT Luncheon that attracted 1,500 last summer.

“I hear more and more from customers who come to us from other banks because they appreciate what we are doing for the community,” Stewart says. “They feel like they should do their part, too, and put their money on deposit with us.”

That’s why we say, “Strong Bank. Strong Community” on our billboards and other advertising. Because it’s a partnership that builds strength and enriches our entire community.


Winners and Losers in Our Long Return to More Normal

Ron Quinn
President & CEO

In the aftermath of the pandemic, many projected our lives would never be the same, much like the impact of the Great Depression, the Great Recession, and other signature events in economic history.

Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, says our last quarter-century has been “a perfect storm of disinflationary forces” eventually disrupted by the pandemic, a large spending and monetary response, and war. As we come out the other side, Powell questions: “What will be the nature of that economy?”

Another economic observer remarked it’s as if we’ve shaken up our economy inside a giant snow globe. Where all the pieces eventually settle is anyone’s guess.

While I don’t disagree with these thoughts, I do feel our economy, particularly here in Gainesville-Hall County, is settling into a nice balance. Whether you call it a “new normal” or a “soft landing,” I simply view this new year as a return to more normal here on the home front.

Despite my predictions of avoiding a severe recession, at least here in Northeast Georgia, there will still be winners and losers. The economy is never going to make everyone happy, but it should tilt heavily in our favor for most in our community as well as the rest of Georgia, 10 years running as the No. 1 state for business.

Wins and Losses

Winners: Big spenders and savers alike. The rate of inflation is finally trending down from a 9 percent high in 2022 to below 3 percent. Combined with strong employment numbers, people should have the ability to spend a lot more this year. Meanwhile, conservative savers have been rewarded with healthier money market and CD rates after years of low interest.

Losers: Employers looking for workers. Gainesville leads the state in low unemployment at around 2.7 percent, slightly up from earlier last year. While falling inflation and rising unemployment are working inversely to strengthen our local economy, we’re still in a tight labor market that makes it tough to hire.

Winners: Workers. Low unemployment means plenty of job opportunities with higher wages.

Losers: Atlanta’s commercial real estate market, which has been decimated by the post-pandemic trend of remote working and will likely face multiple bankruptcies.

Winners: Hall County’s commercial real estate market. Unlike Atlanta, we don’t have the large office towers to fill, plus many are exiting the inner I-285 loop and moving here to work, live and play.

Losers: Local Realtors and mortgage offices (at least temporarily). The residential market has been locked in a stalemate with low inventory, high prices, and soaring interest rates. However, look for pent-up demand and expected rate cuts to slowly boost the mortgage market later this year.

Winners: Homeowners who want to sell. You’ll probably move your home sale quickly and receive top dollar. But with residential values at their highest in years, be prepared to either downsize your next home or rent.

Losers: Consumers relying on our precarious supply chains. Even with our strong local economy and growing inventories, we all remain exposed to the whims of forces we cannot control — like the wars in Ukraine and Israel, terrorist attacks in international shipping lanes, a slowing China economy, upcoming national elections, and so many other uncertainties in our world.

This is where my list of losers ends and is simply way outnumbered by the winners, which includes every one of us who lives here. Whether you are a business owner, an employee, or a retiree, we all benefit from one of the state’s leading healthcare systems, Lake Lanier and the economic positives of tourism, a strong education system from public schools to local universities and technical colleges, a diverse manufacturing and business base —and simply the best quality of life found anywhere.

Despite positive trends, it’s only human nature that we’ll likely still find some faults with this year’s economy — which is a sure sign that we really must be on the way back to more normal.

Call Center: Your Link to Local, Personal Customer Service
The Call Center team that answers your calls is Maritza Williams, left, Lauren Floyd, Rogelio Ponce, Kim Anderson, Haley Ingram, Cheryl Gossett and Jackson Boone.

As a community bank, our personal touch with customers shines every day through our Call Center.

“Our reputation for customer service precedes itself and is expected -- because we are a locally owned community bank,” says Tina Howe, vice president of branch operations. “People appreciate that they can call the bank and talk to a person (not a recording) who actually lives here and works here. That’s a big deal for our customers.”

The most common calls are from customers needing help with online banking. If they don’t bank online, they are typically calling to check account balances or request debit card assistance.

Not only does our customer service team take calls, they also monitor and answer communications through our online banking app as well as through our video ITMs in the drive-through.

Think they stay busy? In 2023, the Call Center received 17,154 calls and conducted 2,623 online banking conversations through the MyPeach app.

Our ability to solve issues quickly comes through teamwork, communications, and technology. When you call into the bank, our sophisticated call-center system captures the time, date, and which representative handled the call. This speeds up our customer service and allows for greater consistency, particularly if there is an ongoing issue.

Our Call Center is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

“At Peach State, we want our customers to know there is a local bank in their community who truly cares about them,” says Howe, “and from Gainesville to Braselton, we are fully invested in serving them.”

Work Begins on New Peach State Braselton Branch

In the coming months, you’ll begin to see progress on the construction of our first permanent branch bank in Braselton along one of Hall County’s most visible and busiest corridors.

Peach State Bank Braselton will be located on Friendship Road on property bordered by Thompson Mill Road and Deaton Creek Parkway, approximately a half mile west of Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. Carroll Daniel Construction of Gainesville has been selected as the contractor with site work already underway and construction soon to follow.

We’ve had a presence in Braselton since 2021 at a leased building just off Hwy. 211 but now will have much greater visibility – and accessibility – in the heart of a busy medical, business, and residential corridor. Our site will eventually be surrounded by an “Avalon-style” mixed-used development projected to be a retail cornerstone in the region.

We are excited about our prime location, especially with our proximity to the Braselton hospital and numerous surrounding medical

Our Braselton Bank will be near the Deaton Creek neighborhood and Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton on Friendship Road.

offices and retirement communities. We’ll be able to provide much more personal community banking to nearby neighborhoods like Chateau Elan, Deaton Creek, and Reunion. Our goal is to bring the same hometown spirit to Braselton that we are known for in Gainesville.

customer spotlight | Paresh and Dharma Patel

Innovative Owners of Three Iconic Downtown Restaurants

Our customers Dharma and Paresh Patel own three of Gainesville’s most popular restaurants.

If you like dining in downtown Gainesville, you will surely recognize Paresh and Dharma Patel from the other side of the lunch counter. The Patels own three of Gainesville’s most popular lunchtime destinations – Sweet Magnolia’s Cafe, Collegiate Grill and, most recently, 2 Dog.

Their journey in the restaurant business began a dozen years ago. Before buying Sweet Magnolia’s, the Patels owned Freddy’s Food Mart gas station in Gainesville and a package store in Lavonia.

“I’ve always liked cooking,” Dharma says. “So, while we were running Freddy’s, we decided to start a small restaurant, Roasters Chicken, next to the gas station.”

In 2012, Paresh saw that Sweet Magnolia’s was for sale. The Patels saw and checked out the restaurant, liked what they saw, and decided to buy the business. It has flourished ever since.

A decade later, they bought the Collegiate Grill in April 2023 though it was not their first time to branch out with another restaurant. About five years into running Sweet Magnolia’s, they owned and operated Sarah’s Country Cooking in Stockbridge, Ga. When the commute became too much, they sold it and moved on three years later.

Always looking for opportunity, Dharma says they were ready to expand to a second restaurant in Gainesville with another country-cooking concept, but then came COVID. Finally, the timing was right last year when restaurant owners Donna and Jeff Worley decided to sell the Collegiate Grill, only steps away on Main Street.

“Some of our mutual customers came to us and said, “You have been running two restaurants at the same time and you know how to manage it, so can you please take over the Collegiate Grill?’” Dharma says. “It’s an iconic place. And with it so close to Sweet Magnolia’s, we took a risk and luckily are doing very well over there.”

Next came 2 Dog, another longtime Gainesville restaurant that was up for sale. A bit more confident with their success to date, the Patels decided to make an offer, turning to Peach State Bank for financing.

“We’ve known the Peach State Bank people as customers here for many years,” Dharma says. “They always support us, often eating together at our restaurants. When we decided to take over 2 Dog, my first thought was to talk to Peach State about a loan. They really helped us, and we are so pleased with their service and confidence in us.”

Mindful of the Collegiate’s rich history and character, the Patels made very few changes, primarily shifting the customer ordering system from table to counter service. They plan to take the same approach at 2 Dog in keeping its signature dishes while making a few interesting additions to the menu that reflect their family’s cultural background.

“We will be adding some authentic Indian dishes that I know people will enjoy,” Dharma says.

The plan is for Dharma and her daughter, Deeya, to run 2 Dog, while their nephew, Mit Patel, will be in charge of Sweet Magnolia’s. Dharma says they have developed a strong staff at the Collegiate to take care of its daily operations, but her husband, Paresh, will still have a hand in overseeing all three restaurants.

The entrepreneurial spirit of the Patel family is reflective of downtown Gainesville’s evolution into a dining destination, and they are excited to play such a big part in its success.

digital security tips | Ways To Avoid Stolen Check Fraud

Even with all the ways to pay online, personal checks are still a common method for paying bills — and it is becoming riskier.

Many older people are more comfortable writing checks for bills or charitable donations. However, putting a check in your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up can put you at risk.

Scammers are stealing checks from mailboxes, using chemicals to remove the ink and writing new recipients and new amounts to steal from your account.

Ways to limit your exposure to check fraud:

  • Limit the number of checks you write. Criminals can alter stolen checks, deposit them by phone and never go into a bank. Just mail checks to people you know or consider making payments through payment apps.
  • Watch for unusual transactions. It’s always good to check your transactions regularly to spot suspicious activity.
  • Mail checks directly from your local post office. Leaving checks in your mailbox with the red flag up makes you an easy target for thieves. Dropping your check in a mail receptacle at the post office is safer.

Peach State Bank Named to Newsweek’s America’s Best Regional Banks

Peach State Bank & Trust has been named by Newsweek as one of America’s Best Regional Banks for 2024.

“We appreciate this national recognition of our commitment to our customers and community in the way we do business,” President & CEO Ron Quinn said. “As a locally owned community bank, we understand the unique needs of our customers and their desire for personalized financial services.”

We are the only locally owned bank in Hall County, so we are able to provide individualized service and personal interactions. That sets us apart from larger banks.

With our dedication to investing local dollars back into our community, Peach State Bank helps produce jobs and aid economic development.

Newsweek magazine, along with market data research firm Plant-A Insights, conducted an independent study analyzing more than 9,440 institutions across the country with over 35,000 customer interviews. The study recognized the top 500 regional banking institutions in the United States.

To receive one of the top designations, banks and credit unions had to first meet scoring criteria for stability, profitability, risk exposure during uncertain times, and the overall health of the institution.

EMPLOYEE spotlight | Terry Baker

Our Executive VP and His Effervescent Hobby

Terry Baker

While most people know Terry Baker through banking, others know a different side through his nostalgic hobby of restoring vintage Coke machines and other antique pieces, including an old Shell gasoline pump.

With Terry, you can bet he’s always tinkering with something. “I love history and I love antique furniture. My hobby started with one Coke machine, and now I’ve restored seven of them.”

Terry mainly collects Coke machines from the 1940s and 50s. He takes them apart, cleans every little piece, fixes whatever’s broken, and then puts it all back together again.

“It’s fun,” Terry says. “The kids really love it, too. When we have special occasions, we’ll load the machines up with the glass Coke bottles. There’s just nothing like them.”

His latest project is restoring three wooden work clocks from the 1820s. These time-telling devices were popular back then because wood was cheaper than brass.

“I love to go to my shop and work with my tools to make something better than when I started,” he says.

Through the years, Terry has crafted great success in local banking through his career at Citizens Bank, SunTrust, Gainesville Bank & Trust, and now Peach State Bank where he serves as executive vice president. At Citizens, he got his start in banking during his high school days at North Hall — and later at North Georgia College — rolling coins and working the teller window part-time.

Terry, Ron Quinn, and Sarah Blalock are our three original employees, having started together back in 2005.

Terry still remembers Ron visiting his home to discuss the vision for starting Peach State Bank. “Ron, in his infinite wisdom, met with both me and my wife, Tammy -- which was very smart. He told Tammy that it was going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. Then, he asked if she would be on board. Her answer was a resounding yes — because she wanted to support me and knew I wanted to do it.”

On June 4, 2004, with the blessings of their families, Terry and Ron left their successful careers at the former Gainesville Bank & Trust on a leap of faith to start Peach State Bank.

“It was exciting and scary all at the same time because I had three little kids,” Baker said. “It’s indeed been a lot of hard work but, in retrospect, a great decision and a rewarding venture for me as well as our families and the entire Peach State team.”

Terry and Tammy’s children are grown now. Their two daughters, Katie Abernathy, 28, and Emily Grattan, 26, are married. Their son, Clay, 24, is in dental school with plans to marry on April 6. The Bakers enjoy being grandparents to Aaron Abernathy and James Grattan.

Next time you see Terry at the bank or out and about, ask him about his next restoration project. If you’re lucky, he just might let you take a peek while serving up a cold bottle of classic Coke.

Committed to Serving

We are committed to our community. We were closed on Jan. 15 to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but our bank parking lot was used as the staging area for the Newtown Florist Club’s 54th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. The parade drew hundreds of marchers in honor of the late civil rights leader.

121 E E Butler Pkwy | Gainesville, GA 30501 | Phone: (770) 536-1100 | Fax: (770) 536-2525