LifeStore Bank and Insurance Host Ribbon Cutting
Thursday evening June 15, 2023, LifeStore Bank and Insurance hosted an open house and ribbon cutting in conjunction with the Ashe Chamber of Commerce for its newly renovated building on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Ashe Streets in West Jefferson. Kitty Honeycutt, Executive Director for Ashe Chamber remarked it may be the largest attendance the Ashe Chamber has seen at a ribbon cutting.
Rev. Michael Lea, West Jefferson First Baptist Church pastor and Ashe Chamber Board member delivered a blessing for the employees and the work of LifeStore. Bob Washburn, President and CEO of LifeStore who also serves as President of the Chamber commented that the building demonstrates the bank’s commitment to Ashe County for the past 84 years. Washburn said, “The financial services industry has gone through tremendous change, and we needed to reconfigure our workspace to reflect the ways those interactions with our customers are changing.”
The project required significant planning and then the better part of a year to construct. Appalachian Architecture principal, Bill Dixon and Leigh Blevins, project manager helped LifeStore imagine the space. Leigh is the daughter of Jay Blevins who operated Deluxe Barbershop that was once on the first floor of the building. LifeStore then looked to Vannoy Construction to turn this vision into a reality led by Jacob Gentry, project manager and Gordon Gray, foreman.
Washburn stated that this building was not just to improve our operations but also to commit to West Jefferson and Ashe County. He recognized Karen Powell, a LifeStore Bank Board of Director member. Karen shared that the bank was formed in 1939 to help make homeownership a reality for local families and today it supports numerous area non-profits. Karen notes that LifeStore understands the needs of our communities and noted an area that is both critical to working families and economic development is access to quality and affordable childcare. On behalf of LifeStore and the Board of Directors, she announced a $10,000 contribution to the Partnership of Ashe.
Kim Barnes, Executive Director for the Partnership of Ashe accepted the donation and shared with the crowd the need for childcare in Ashe County with 430 children currently on the waiting list. This contribution will be used to assist with a community playroom. The playroom will be for children ages 0-5 and will be equipped with child-size furniture, science, math, art, dramatic play, and literacy centers. The educators will conduct evident based activities with parents and the children, teaching them how to interact and play together to learn a skill.
The LifeStore Support Center is where calls are answered, loans are processed, and Accounting, HR, IT, and marketing occur. This newly designed facility is a workspace for tomorrow with today’s needs in mind and flexibility to accommodate change easily. It includes ergonomically designed desks, energy-efficient LED motion sensor lighting, and improved employee amenities, including an additional breakroom and enlarged and better-equipped restrooms. There is hotel space for employees who only need office space for shorter periods of time and space for employees with a hybrid schedule of remote and in-office work.
LifeStore employees led tours through the facility sharing many of its characteristics.
- A newly constructed planter by Stuart Nursery and flowers by Thompson Landscaping
- The addition of an exterior clock tower as a welcome to West Jefferson
- Removal of stucco with brick designed to match.
This original exterior brick was wire pressed seen on the upper level at the front of the building. The brick is about 85 years
The new brick was specially ordered to match the original brick.
The brick on the end side is a smoother brick.
- The addition of timber brackets made by Carolina Timberworks
- The entrance was moved to Jefferson Avenue, and a reception area was added on the ground level.
- Local artwork with prints, paintings, and photographs all from the area decorate the building
- The interior is designed with flexibility - a workspace for tomorrow with today’s needs in mind and a flexible workspace to accommodate change easily.
- It includes ergonomically designed desks and energy efficient LED motion sensor lighting; the building is better equipped with amenities for employees and has a work area referred to as “hotel space” for the employee who only needs office space for short periods of time.
- The interior features a large open space light interior, a nice infiltration of natural light, and the incorporation of old brick on the exterior walls showing the connection to the building’s past.
LifeStore dates back to 1939 when its founders saw the need for a local building and loan association to help people purchase or build new homes. Today LifeStore Bank operates four locations in Ashe and Watauga Counties and LifeStore Insurance is located in those locations as well as Elkin, Lenoir, Newland and Sparta.
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