As he has done on Saturday for several years, Steve Ricker went to Suburban Federal Savings Bank in Crofton yesterday to get change for his convenience store a few blocks away.
"This bank has always met my needs," Ricker said. "They gave me my first mortgage 30 years ago."
Though by all appearances it was business as usual, yesterday was no ordinary day. After seizing Suburban Federal the night before, federal officials were on the scene yesterday with the bank's staff, paving the way for Suburban's sale to a Virginia-based bank.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. stepped in when Suburban, which has expanded to seven branches since its founding in 1955, was unable to find a buyer to help offset millions in bad loans. The result was the first failure of a Maryland bank since 1992.
The Bank of Essex, headquartered in Tappahannock, Va., bought most of Suburban's assets and many of its loans, according to the FDIC.
Throughout the morning yesterday, the typical Saturday crowd engaged in typical end-of-month transactions. Like Ricker, many customers said they were aware of the FDIC action and the sale, although few knew the new owner's name.
Customers came to make payments on mortgages or loans, or to make withdrawals, but many had questions. Bernard Mulhern of Bowie arrived with a savings passbook and asked about how and when his accounts would be transferred.
"I am not contemplating anything drastic," he said. "I have never had a problem with this bank. I just have questions."
After about 15 minutes, Mulhern left the bank to run a few more errands.
"I feel reassured," he said. "They are functioning as usual."
Kathy Shumaker of Harwood was the only one of the dozen customers interviewed who said the news of the bank's demise persuaded her to close her accounts.
"I have no confidence in the banking industry anymore," said Shumaker, who called herself a longtime satisfied customer. "I don't understand how this happened. This bank has always been conservative."
Shumaker recalled how Suburban started as a true neighborhood bank and remained that way. She spoke of knowing managers years ago by name and remembered that Suburban was the only bank willing to give her father a mortgage loan in the 1970s.
But Shumaker said she is reluctant to stay with the institution - or any bank for that matter.
"My grandfather lost all his money in the Depression, and he never really came out of that," Shumaker said.
Suburban is among the latest financial institutions to fail after getting caught up in the mortgage crisis. It was among three banks the FDIC seized Friday, bringing the total number of failed banks to six this year.
Federal officials stressed that the FDIC insures deposits up to $250,000 and that customers will continue to have uninterrupted access to their funds.
"The health of the banking industry does not affect FDIC insurance," said David M. Barr, spokesman for FDIC. "We were created during the Depression, and since then not a single customer has ever lost a penny."
The deal is expected to cost the FDIC $126 million, or 35 percent of Suburban's assets, an amount some banking experts have characterized as costly.
About 50 FDIC employees were working yesterday at the Crofton site, the bank's main building just off Route 450 on Baldwin Road, and most were expected to be gone within a few days, Barr said.
Many customers lingered to read details of the transfer in a news release posted at the entrances. "Customers realize a new bank has taken over and that it's business as usual," Barr said. "That's a really good sign that this transition will go smoothly."
Gary Simanson, vice president of the Bank of Essex, said a few skittish customers are to be expected when a bank changes hands. However, two Suburban branches reported a rise in deposits by the end of business yesterday, he said.
"Most customers want the process explained and to know their accounts are insured," he said. "Our first day was somewhat of a nonevent, and that is a strong statement that we are strong and sound. This bank did not close. It changed ownership."
Throughout the morning, Barr said he phoned other Suburban branches and found them to be operating normally.
"These are challenging times, and they have come to a small town in Maryland," Barr said. "I know people have a lot to worry about, but the safety of their money" should not be one of those worries.
Before jumping in his pickup truck and heading to work, Ricker said he noticed no difference under the new ownership.
"I think this will just be business as usual with a really smooth transition," Ricker said.