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Business Lending Spotlight: Arsenal Credit Union

This is part of a series of stories highlighting credit unions making small business loans in Missouri.  Credit unions in each region are urged to call and email our U.S. Senators in support of S. 2231, sharing stories about the people who are helping small businesses grow, and the small business owners who benefit when they have more financial options.   St. Louis Chapter:  Make Senate contacts by calling 1-877-642-4223, by using the Grassroots Action Center and/or visiting in person, highlighting the small business lending efforts of Arsenal Credit Union and asking for support of S. 2231, the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act.

Arsenal Credit Union

Arsenal Credit Union began in 1948 to serve the personal financial needs of federal government employees who worked locally for what is now known as NGA, or the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.  NGA remains the credit union’s largest select employee group, followed by the St. Louis VA Medical Center.  The credit union has grown its field of membership over the years, and now primarily serves those who live or work in St. Louis County, the city of St. Louis, and Jefferson County. The credit union also serves several counties in Illinois.  With more than 22,000 members and $175 million in assets, Arsenal remains committed to member service and true to the “people helping people” philosophy of credit unions.  

In 2007, Arsenal began offering loans to small businesses and did $3.7 million in loan volume the first year.  Additional financial products and services for small businesses have been introduced since then.  Business loan volume now exceeds $12 million.

“Why do we do business lending? The answer is basic: there is a need and banks are simply not serving the small business borrower,” explains John Gerke, Arsenal senior vice president. “The surrounding communities and market benefits is pure economics.  Mostly, our business borrowers are employers and they create jobs.”

Here are some of the small businesses that Arsenal Credit Union is helping:

Serving Up a St. Louis Tradition
Sean Dooley and Steve Smith, Owners, Dooley’s Beef N Brew House

Dooley’s is a hamburger restaurant with a rich Saint Louis tradition.  For 40 years, they were downtown, serving the best burger in town to businessmen and women, shoppers and baseball fans.  But with a new landlord at their old location and changes in the downtown economics, Dooley’s closed in 2008. 

In 2011, it was time to come back.  Sean Dooley and business partner Steve Smith found a perfect location on North Grand in midtown St. Louis, near Saint Louis University, across from Powell Symphony, and two storefronts down from the Fox Theatre.

Dooley’s was up and running fairly quickly, but then the owners ran into a problem.  They needed to put up signage that fit into the neighborhood’s design scheme.  With the heritage of the restaurant and its promising early returns, as well as the liquidity of the two partners, neither expected it to be difficult to get a loan from their local bank.  After being turned down by the fourth bank, they thought differently. 

“There were two basic responses.  The larger banks thought we were just too small to deal with, and wouldn’t even move through the application process, and the smaller community banks felt that our industry was too risky, regardless of our backgrounds,” says Sean Dooley.  “We heard that credit unions were doing business loans, and thank goodness we did.  The deal was considered, and approved in quick order, and our relationship is set to grow.”

The signs are ordered and scheduled to be installed shortly, marking the return of Dooley’s Beef N Brew House to the St. Louis community – thanks to the help of Arsenal Credit Union.

Long Hours to Meet Housing Needs
David Binaei, Owner, ALB Real Estate Management

David Binaei works long hours as the owner and operator of ALB Real Estate Management.  But he’s used to hard work.  After two years without a raise as a kitchen designer, Binaei was frustrated when he received a 25 cent per hour increase and decided to go into real estate.  He took a class on leasing, learned about renovation from scratch, and started his business.  In the past nine years, Binaei has bought and rented out residential property in the St. Louis area, focusing on properties around the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  Most of the time, Binaei completely renovates the buildings and does the work himself, putting in 16-hour days.

Binaei currently owns nine buildings, including four, six, eight, 10 and 12 family flats.  He learned about Arsenal Credit Union from a friend when he was trying to refinance one of his buildings.  Binaei says he would recommend Arsenal Credit Union “in a heartbeat” and cautions others to stay away from bigger banks.

TAKE ACTION for small business owners like these:

St. Louis Chapter credit unions:  Make contacts by phone, by email, and/or in person today, highlighting the small business lending efforts and asking for support of S. 2231, the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act.

  • Grassroots Action Center (please be sure to register BEFORE writing your email)
  • 1-877-642-4223
  • Credit union presidents and small business owners are encouraged to make contacts directly to McCaskill and Blunt key staff members.

PLEASE NOTE:  To give credit for calls and emails made outside of the Grassroots Action Center , please share those contacts made with Amy McLard.