Vibrant Credit Union is not just growing by renaming the Quad Cities’ 29-year-old arena, in downtown Moline.
The 87-year-old, Moline-based institution is brewing up new business, with the stylish, rustic Vibrant Coffeehouse and Kitchen, now open next to the Vibrant headquarters at 6600 44th Ave., Moline.
The new business serves house-roasted coffee and espresso drinks, signature energy drinks, all-day breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts in an open and comfortable space that encourages lingering. The coffeehouse offers dine-in and drive-thru services seven days a week.
This past March, Vibrant moved into the renovated former Sam’s Club, after 15 months of construction. There are 220 employees at the new HQ, moved from its former HQ near SouthPark Mall at 1900 52nd Ave.
CEO Matt McCombs said recently that renovation of the former Sam’s auto shop next door (south of John Deere Road) began this past February and was finished in late August.
“Inside here is our own roasting facility, so we roast our own coffee here as well,” he said. The shop was a big open shell, McCombs said. Russell Construction did the renovations for the coffeehouse and kitchen.
Vibrant has increased staff as it has boosted membership – since 2005, total assets have more than doubled from $400 million to over $1 billion today, McCombs said.
The company has acquired naming rights to the TaxSlayer Center for $4 million over 10 years, and effective Sept. 1, it became Vibrant Arena at The MARK. The arena opened in 1993 as The MARK of the Quad Cities, with two sold-out Neil Diamond shows.
Vibrant started in 1935 as John Deere Harvester Credit Union, and today the company also owns an insurance business and title company.
In 2005, the former Deere Harvester Credit Union first changed its name to DHCU, and then in 2015, the credit union rebranded as Vibrant, with the same ownership.
Vibrant has over 55,000 members across its nine branches, which stretch from Des Moines to Indiana. Community involvement has always been a big part of the company, including parade sponsorships.
“The arena was kind of the kickoff of that – in our minds, it’s one of the most critical infrastructure projects of the Quad Cities,” McCombs said. “The reality is, Vibrant Arena is kind of the mainstay events center that helps the Quad Cities, and it allows the community to bring in events, activities, and bring sports teams in.
Staying in Illinois
“Our ability to focus on that was something we cared a lot about,” he said. The Coffeehouse and Kitchen was planned to complement the new HQ.
“We had opportunities to go to Iowa, and that’s been a common thing in the Quad Cities – of a lot of places leaving the Illinois side of the river,” McCombs said, noting Vibrant was committed to staying in Illinois.
“Being able to repurpose a building – what do you do with a 140,000-square-foot building?” he said of the old Sam’s Club. Vibrant has already gotten great feedback on the new coffeehouse, with one person remarking, “Nice things do come to Illinois.”
The credit union wanted to bring amenities into what became the coffeehouse building (with its 25-foot-high ceiling), previously seeking restaurants to move in (including chains).
“Unfortunately, we kept getting the same message – we’re not really interested in Illinois,” McCombs said. “There are struggles with what‘s happening at the state level that are impacting this side of the river.”
From Smokey Row to Vibrant
Vibrant then looked at opening the restaurant itself, headed by a general manager with 25 years experience running other coffeehouses.
Monte Bennett started and grew Smokey Row, in central Iowa, selling the chain a number of years ago. McCombs has known him since he was 18, going to Central College in Pella, Iowa (he graduated in 2004).
“Like every coffee shop employee, Matt spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to open his own place. After graduation, he went into banking—but he never stopped dreaming about coffee,” the Vibrant Coffeehouse website says.
“So when Matt finally got serious about starting a coffeehouse of his own, he knew exactly who his first hire should be—his former mentor, Monte.”
“As an 18-year-old kid, I found myself staying until 11 o’clock, 12 at night, talking to him about roasting coffee,” McCombs said recently. “We just have known each other for a long time. We stayed in touch and when we first looked at this, I asked him for advice, how we should do this. He said, at this point in his life it would be great to have something after he sold his previous business.
“It worked out really well,” he said, noting Smokey Row has several locations in central Iowa.
Vibrant wanted to have a place for not only a variety of coffee beverages, but all-day breakfast and a lunch menu. Eventually, they plan to stay open until 8 p.m. seven days a week (by late October), and being close to Black Hawk College will be a great spot for students, McCombs said.
Discounts for members, staff
The restaurant offers 20-percent off all purchases for credit union members, and now a half-off discount for Vibrant employees.
They’ve been running a professional development program, including recent college grads. The coffeehouse is a great benefit to have from an employee standpoint, McCombs said.
Vibrant already has expansion plans for the coffeehouse, to open in Bettendorf next year and two locations in greater Des Moines (in the next 18 months). That offers another career path for people, McCombs said.
The new coffeehouses will be combined with existing credit union branches.
“We’re evaluating how individuals interact with their financial institutions today,” McCombs said. “We realize there’s a trend happening in how folks utilize banking facilities in person, pre-COVID. COVID has changed immensely how people utilize banking facilities.”
The Quad Cities has strong community banks and credit unions, including Ascentra and IH Mississippi Valley.
“The Quad Cities has always been local, and we feel that not just in the banking industry,” McCombs said. “Again, the two states and the demographics sometimes causes that.”
Making a difference
“This market has always been really strong, driven for local financial institutions,” he said. From a competition standpoint, Vibrant wants to stand out and show how it’s really different.
“One of the things we’ve done pretty well at Vibrant over the years, and certainly now with this new model is, how do we make sure we have something that’s clearly a different choice for consumers to look at,” McCombs said.
The hope is that these community moves will help increase membership.
“I think the community responds pretty well to that,” he said. “We’ll see in the next few years in terms of how that moves on. I think that as folks continue to interact with us in different ways than they interact with our financial institution, they have reason to do more things with us.”
The exterior Vibrant Arena sign changes should happen in November, McCombs said. Over the next six months, several interior changes will take place.
The current coffeehouse and kitchen hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday/Sunday, 7 a.m. to noon. They have 18 full- and part-time employees and are looking to hire more.
Next summer, Vibrant hopes to have food trucks and live music in the parking lot.
“This area of Moline is just as much part of East Moline,” McCombs said. “We want some excitement out here, and if we can do that where we’re working with other local businesses, all partnering together, we’re fortunate that Sam’s had to build a really big parking lot, so we might as well leverage the parking lot for some events.”
There also are outdoor tables and chairs now. The QC Chamber will hold a ribbon-cutting on Monday, Oct. 17th at noon. Tours of the coffeehouse and the new Vibrant HQ will be available after the ceremony.
To see the full menu and for more information, click HERE.