Chase Bank celebrates new Williamsburg branch with grand opening

October 17, 2018 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Elaine Brodsky, Chase Bank executive director Bill Berdini and North Brooklyn Chamber board member Norm Brodsky. Eagle photos by Andy Katz

Chase Bank Williamsburg branch manager Tamara Bulatovic joined executive director Bill Berdini and managing director Gregg Kleinbaum on Oct. 13 at the entrance to Chase’s newest North Brooklyn location, on North Seventh Street and Bedford Avenue, welcoming guests to the official opening like a trio of proud parents.

“People have been coming in and telling us, ‘Thank God you’re here!’” Berdini said, describing customers’ reaction to the branch’s Oct. 9 soft opening a few days prior.

“You’re not going to see a lot of traditional banking at this location,” said Kleinbaum, who was responsible for much of the interior layout. “Our staff are digital ambassadors. The idea is that banking here will be just like banking at home.”

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Indeed, walking into the branch, one first comes to a wide, plain table with chairs set round. Behind it is a large telescreen flanked by shelves holding decorative candles and jars. The look is intentionally like a dining room furnished by West Elm.

To the right are a pair of cardless teller machines, which customers access using digital wallets on their smartphones. To the left are glass-fronted offices for more involved transactions. The floor is decorated in Chase blue with mosaic tiles recycled from car windows using, Kleinbaum explained, robotics technology.

Set in the left front is a small lounge area where Chase staff plan to hold regular meetings with local business and community groups.

Within a few weeks, nearly all banking personnel are expected to eschew traditional business banking attire in favor of blazers and jeans while on the job.

“I spent a lot of  time just walking around this neighborhood,” Kleinbaum said, describing how “Bedford North 7,” as the branch is known, came to. “I watched it develop … there came the Apple store and Starbucks. We wanted something that would fit in organically here, a bit artsy and very high tech.”

“People said, ‘When are you going to open a branch here?’” Berdini said before the ribbon cutting. “It’s been a long time coming, but we’re here. And we’re here in a big way.”

“When I was growing up, Williamsburg was the center of the universe,” Assemblymember Joe Lentol said. “I’m so happy that fate has finally brought Chase Bank to this location.”

In addition to senior Chase Bank management, both Brooklyn and North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce personnel were on hand for the opening. Upon learning how the bank plans to interact with the community, North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Paul Samulski proposed using the branch for one of the Chamber’s Revealed programs, where members get an in-depth look behind the scenes of area businesses.

From left: North Brooklyn Chamber board member Norm Brodsky and Assemblymember Joe Lentol.

“That’s a great idea,” Bulatovic said, swapping business cards and promising to follow up with Samulski.

After the ribbon was parted, proud papa Berdini took Lentol, Chamber of Commerce staff and reporters on a tour of the rest of the building.

The second floor roof afforded a view of North 7th Street, now closed down heading south past Bedford. Street work also extended along Bedford Avenue east and west, all of it in anticipation of the dreaded L-train shutdown scheduled for April of 2019.

Recalling the building’s previous history, Berdini said, “All of this in here was just a mess, with junk scattered all over. There had been a lot of neglect over the years.”

“Suppose you use this wall to put up a history of this building?” North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Elaine Brodsky proposed, pointing out an unadorned section of wall by the entrance. “You could use archival images from when this was a Salvation Army headquarters.”

“I really like that,” said Kleinbaum.


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