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Commerce Bank to open first boro site in Astoria

When Commerce Bank opens the doors to its first Queens branch Friday in Astoria, customers should not expect to be greeted by business as usual.

"We run our bank the way an entrepreneur would run their business - truly interested in building a relationship with the consumer," said Peter Meyer, the bank's regional vice president for Brooklyn and Queens. "We are a retailer who happens to be in the banking business."

Commerce, a New Jersey-based bank founded three decades ago, is now targeting Queens less than two years after opening its first branches in Manhattan.

A new bank at the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Street slated to open Friday is only the first of four Queens locations scheduled to start doing business this year, an expansion that bank officials say will usher in 15 borough branches within three years.

Meyer sees Astoria as an effective stepping off point for Commerce in Queens because the neighborhood already boasts a broad base of competitor banks.

"We feel we can take advantage of their existing consumer and business base by showcasing the type of service that we give," Meyer said. "This is the type of place that we want to be - densely populated, community oriented. You've got the density of the city, but you've got the feel and community of a suburb."

Commerce markets itself with a customer-oriented, retailer-style image and offers such amenities as free personal checking, branches open seven days a week, free coin-counting machines and free ATM cards.

"We try to think like the consumer and we try to anticipate what the consumer wants," Meyer said.

The bank plans to follow up the first Astoria opening with new branches in Middle Village at Metropolitan Avenue and 80th Street in July, in Astoria at Steinway Street and Broadway in August, and in Auburndale at Northern Boulevard and Frances Lewis Boulevard later this year.

Beyond this year's crop of storefront banks, Meyer predicts that Commerce will exceed its current goal of 15 Queens branches over three years.

"Queens is absolutely able to support 20 branches," Meyer said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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