Oakdale's First Bank Celebrates its 25th Anniversary
Western Bank was recruited into Oakdale by a community group.
Oakdale’s first bank turned 25 this month.
Western Bank opened Aug. 4, 1986, next to Kmart, said Michele Willard, assistant vice president of relationship banking.
The company had been recruited by an economic development group that had formed for the purpose of bringing a bank to town, said Ted Bearth, who was on the Oakdale City Council at that time.
They wanted the bank not only to service the city, but the residents in Oakdale, he said. There were about 12,000 residents in Oakdale when the 1980 census was taken.
“They were the only ones willing to come out and take a chance,” Bearth said. “We were so small back then.”
Attracting a bank was the “next best thing” to attracting a grocery store, Bearth said, which happened a few years later when Rainbow Foods arrived.
Now, Western Bank has a $354 million asset size among its five locations, Willard said.
It was Oakdale’s sole bank for three years, until Marquette Bank moved into Rainbow Foods in 1989, she said.
One of the big changes that has occurred over the years is the advent of online banking, Willard said. The interest in banking online versus getting personal customer service is generational, she said.
“We’ve got a lot of the seniors who, they just want to call up and talk to a real person,” Willard said. But the bank sees less lobby traffic now due to younger people who use mobile banking, electronic statements and other technology, she said.
“People can do so much online,” she said, “so as long as everything works, you never hear from them.”
The bank moved to its current location in its own building on Hadley Avenue just north of 10th Street in 2003, Willard said. She said she’s hopeful that the development of the nearby Tartan Crossing site will bring in more business for the bank.
Western Bank, which was founded in 1915 is one of a small number of banks in the area that is family-owned, Willard said.
“(The management has) a personal interest in it,” she said, “so it makes a big difference in how we’re treated and how our customers are treated.”