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Rothsay celebrates bank’s return

Published 11:47am Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A community that has been missing its bank for nearly two years will have something to celebrate on Jan. 28 and 29. Farmers State Bank in Rothsay will have an open house with extended hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, with refreshments and door prizes.

Wells Fargo, which had been the only bank in Rothsay, closed in February 2011, leaving the town without a bank. The City of Rothsay purchased the building, and began aggressively searching for a bank interested in opening in the community. They found a good match in Farmers State Bank, which opened its doors on Jan. 2.

“For the vitality of Rothsay, it was extremely important to have a bank in town, and it was important to get someone that was truly interested in the community,” said Shane Balken, who is the town council member who heads up economic development. “Farmers State Bank has been phenomenal to work with. Rothsay is on the upswing. We’ve helped or been a part of getting four new businesses started in town, and having the bank will hopefully bring more businesses and really pay off.”

While the open house will give people a chance to get to know the bank services and the local employees that work there, many in town recall that the bank itself has local ties. Farmers State Bank was the local bank in town from 1915 to 1991. The bank was sold and has changed hands a few times since then.

The Underwood-based Farmers State Bank is a locally owned, independent community bank. In addition to the main office in Underwood, they operate two branches; one in Dalton and the new branch in Rothsay.

“As a small, locally owned bank based out of Underwood, we understand the commitment it takes to help support the people of a small town,” said Farmers State Bank Senior Vice President Kellen Shebeck at a community meeting in Rothsay in July.

Once Farmers State Bank decided to apply to the State of Minnesota and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to open a Rothsay branch, they also sought out someone locally who could run it.

Joy Solum, who has been living in rural Rothsay since 1996, has held just about every position in banking, from secretary to bank president, over the past 35 years.

“I was retired almost a year from banking when I first met with them,” said Solum, the branch’s new manager and business, agriculture and mortgage lender. “I think I investigated Farmers State Bank as much as they did me — it was important for me to know how they wanted to operate in small community. I think it is a very good fit.”

Solum says she found Farmers State Bank services extremely competitive, and was impressed they have been offering on-line banking for seven years. While Farmers State Bank offers various types of loans, checking and savings accounts, CD, IRAs, and 24-hour telebank services, Solum says personalized service and making decisions locally in a timely manner sets the bank apart.

“Not only are we able to offer a full range of services in Rothsay, we also get to know your particular situation,” said Solum. “When you’re in a community like this personalized service, where we know you by name is important. We care about you and your relationships in the community.”

Farmers State Bank was also able to attract other qualified local personnel to round out the team. Personal banker Brenda Aune has 20 years banking experience, and Kim Brenden comes with 12 years’ experience. While Molly Eckley is new to banking, she, along with Brenden, grew up in Rothsay, living in town their whole life.

Farmers State Bank is leasing space from the City of Rothsay. The facility will also house the city clerk, making it a hub of business for the town.

The operating hours of the bank will be Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The lobby will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and a newly installed walk-up window will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., and again from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., though Solum notes that the branch is flexible to change the walk-up window hours depending on demand from the community.

“What is most important is convenience to the customers, members that are involved in the community, and giving back to the community,” said Solum.

In addition to the open house, the Farmers State Bank team looks forward to being involved in many community events, such as selling taco in a bag to support the Rothsay School booster club before the Feb. 8 boy’s basketball game during Snoball Week, participating in Meals on Wheels for senior citizens, and supporting local nonprofit and service organizations.

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