Another personal touch has folded to the age of electronic commerce.
The Buffalo Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a handsome and well-secured stone building on Delaware Avenue where loyal customers have purchased savings bonds and Treasury bills for years, closed its teller window Tuesday.
The U.S. Bureau of Public Debt decided to shut Treasury security window operations at all Fed banks because an increasing number of consumers invest by mail, telephone and over the Internet.
Only about 2 percent of the 620,000 customers who buy directly from the Treasury still use the walk-up windows, according to department statistics.
Direct sales were also terminated Tuesday at 35 other Federal Reserve banks and the Capital Area Servicing Center in Washington, D.C. The bureau expects the move will save $5 million annually.
Officials at the Fed Buffalo Branch called it the "quiet end of an era." Although traffic has dropped, some loyal customers will miss the service, said Branch Officer Gary Weintraub.
"It's not a very large number, but there are certainly people who are used to coming into the bank for that service," Weintraub said.
The branch served 5,300 patrons in 1998 and was on a similar pace this year, averaging about 24 customers a day.
In years past, when interest rates were high and electronic services were not typical, the branch lobby was much busier.
The Buffalo Branch remains one of five Federal Reserve branches processing U.S. savings bonds. The branch with about 220 employees processes for the Federal Reserve's First and Second Districts, covering all of New York state and New England.
The branch processed about 3.7 million savings bonds last year. Most customers purchase the traditional bonds at commercial banks which act as sales agents.
The local Federal Reserve branch also has a cash window for consumers to exchange damaged money and purchase obscure currency, such as two-dollar bills. The cash window remains open, but will probably also close within weeks, Weintraub said.
"Likely, within the next month, we'll be closing that as well. There's just not enough traffic to warrant manning the window," he said.
Consumers will have to exchange damaged currency by mailing it to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
The Fed Buffalo Branch is the entry point for currency in Upstate New York. New money, such as the quarters commemorating each state, enter the market through the branch and old bills are shred there.
The service changes will result in a couple job reductions at the branch, but affected employees will likely be shifted into positions that open through retirements and attrition.
The branch will continue serving area Treasury customers making purchases and reinvestments of bonds, notes and bills by telephone and mail for about two years.
The Bureau of Public Debt is opening centralized customer service centers at Federal Reserve banks in Boston, Minneapolis and Dallas. When those centers open, the local branch will no longer provide phone or mail service for Treasury customers.
"Combined with an existing array of automated services available by phone and Internet, the centers will create a modern service environment that not only saves money for the taxpayer, but adds convenience for the customer," Public Debt Commissioner Van Zeck said.