Faribault has changed a lot over the last 100 years. Horse-drawn carriages have been replaced by cars. Telephone lines have been strung across the city. Fashions have run the gamut from floor-brushing skirts and buttoned boots to jeans and sneakers.
Yet, as Faribault has grown and changed, one institute has remained a steady fixture within the community: State Bank of Faribault, founded in 1919 and owned by the Carlander family, celebrates its official 100-year anniversary this December.
The bank has seen its share of changes as four generations of Carlanders have weathered economic hardships throughout the century and found ways to service customers’ changing needs. The bank will evolve once more in June as it opens a brand-new branch in Prior Lake. But even as it grows and changes, State Bank of Faribault remains committed to serving its customers and its community.
“We’re very appreciative of the customers and the community of Faribault, which have supported us and allowed us to continue to grow and prosper,” said current bank president John R. Carlander. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be working today as a third generation banker for a community bank in downtown Faribault.”
The State Bank of Faribault was founded on Dec. 20, 1919. The bank opened with $60,500 in capital and $100,000 in total resources, and John W. Boock was its first elected president. The bank was first located in the Masonic Building at 228 Central Ave., but it moved in 1930, relocating to a vacant building right next door at 229 Central Ave.
In 1938, John Carlander was elected president of the bank, beginning the Carlanders’ multi-generational banking history. In an archived interview, Carlander stated, “I am impressed with the beauty of this city and the progressive spirit of its people. I am pleased with the promising prospects of a bigger and better Faribault State Bank.”
The bank surrendered its trust powers and became The State Bank of Faribault in 1939. More change came 20 years later when the bank moved into a newly constructed building at its current location at 428 Central Ave. Since then, the bank added six drive-up units, two ATMs and four major additions to the building. In addition, the bank purchased a building at 202 Western Ave. for a second location, the West Mall Branch Office, which opened for business on Nov. 26, 1991.
The bank has experienced massive success throughout the years, now boasting $210 million deposits and a capital account of roughly $25 million, as well as generations of loyal customers. It has 46 employees, some of whom have worked there for more than 20 years. One employee has even been there since 1973.
“Long-term employees — that’s a key to our success,” said Matthew Carlander, John R. Carlander’s brother and who serves as vice president/business development at the bank. “When you have several seasoned employees who can do different jobs and play different roles at the drop of the hat, that really helps move the boat forward.”
A family heritage
Throughout the last 100 years, nine Carlanders have worked at the State Bank of Faribault, starting with John Carlander, one of the bank’s first presidents.
Carlander, who had a degree in accounting, had been working as the head examiner of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis when he was invited to come to Faribault. He had lived in St. Peter and knew the area, making it easier to accept the job.
John Carlander’s son Richard spoke with the Faribault Daily News in 2014 in celebration of its 95th anniversary, and in that interview he shared more about his father’s desire to work in the banking industry:
“My father got his degree in accounting in 1918. He knew that such a diploma opened doors. When he walked out his door every morning, he’d see the bank president across the street get into a nice carriage. He thought that was a pretty good deal. He knew then it was something he wanted to get into.”
Richard Carlander followed in his father’s footsteps, beginning his work at the bank as a high school sophomore in 1953. John Richard Carlander’s only child, he started at the bottom as a part-time bookkeeper and continued working throughout high school and college. He was promoted to assistant cashier in 1960, making $1.73 an hour. Eventually, he was elected president of the bank in 1968 and chairman of the bank’s board in 1993.
At 82, Richard Carlander is still working. In the Carlander family, you work until you hit 85, since that’s when John Carlander retired.
“We work until we’re 85, until we retire or die,” John R. Carlander explained. “My father’s 82. He continues to come to the bank on a pretty consistent basis to participate in our growth and make sure we’re on track for our next century.”
But for the Carlanders, the State Bank of Faribault has been responsible for more than just Richard Carlander’s 66-year career. According to Richard’s daughter, Kimberly (Carlander) Koepke, the Carlander kids have the bank to thank for the way their parents met.
Koepke said that her mother, Lorraine, came into the bank as a customer one day to meet another bank employee, and Richard Carlander happened to notice her in the lobby. He inquired as to who she was and even promised the fellow employee a steak dinner if a date could be arranged between the two of them.
“It all worked out,” Koepke said with a laugh. “And the employee got that steak dinner.”
Joining the family business
For John R. Carlander, the eldest of the third-generation of Carlander siblings, joining the family business was never a question.
“I knew as soon as I understood the concept of working that I was going to be a community banker,” he said. “There was just no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I knew that from age 5. I used to down here on Saturdays and Sundays with my father, when he would work. The bank would be closed, and I’d have my own little office where I could put my pencils and paper and pretend that I was a community banker.”
Koepke and Matthew Carlander have similar memories of spending time at the bank when they were younger. Koepke shared stories of how the siblings would often go to the bank on the weekends to give their mother some free time, and they would “cause problems” by eating all the bank’s candy, jamming up the counting machines and riding the bank’s elevator so many times that Koepke once got stuck in it.
But the most fun was probably the time they pushed all the bank’s buttons and accidentally set off the security alarm.
“I think it was John who did it, but he says it was me,” Koepke said. “It’s still pretty controversial today as to who it was.”
Older brother, John R. Carlander began working at the bank when he was 16, starting in 1973. He had the chance to work with both his grandfather and his father, whom he calls his mentors. One particular lesson he remembers learning stems from his time as a high school student working part-time at the bank during the summer. Part of his job was selling tickets at the Rice County Fair and bringing the money back to the bank to deposit it. He said he expected a pretty big paycheck after working an 80-hour week, but he was disappointed when he received his check and saw how small it was.
“I thought there had to be a mistake,” he said. “So I went to my grandfather’s office and said, ‘Grandfather, there’s got to be a mistake here. I don’t see the benefit of working that hard if you don’t see the compensation.’ He said, ‘John, if you can’t get it done in 40 hours, you don’t deserve to get paid more.’ That was an eye opener for me. That just taught me the value of working hard but working efficiently, not dilly dally to stretch the work week out. It showed me that you put your shoulder to the wheel, and you work hard, and the harder you work, the more you’re going to get rewarded than just putting the time in.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Carlander started working at the bank in high school in 1982 before studying banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, he returned to the bank in the bookkeeping department, eventually working his way up to vice president/business development. Over the years, he watched the bank’s business model grow in the wake of computerized data storage and other technological advances.
Koepke came to the bank in 1993, becoming the first female elected to the board of directors. In 2009, she started to physically work at the bank as the manager of its Rewards Club, a unique service that no other bank in town offers. A travel social club, the Rewards Club promotes tour and travel for clients.
“The best part of my job are the friendships that are made,” Koepke said. “We like to travel, laugh, experience new things and create life-long memories. In the end, memories are all you have. You walk in as a customer and you leave a friend.”
When it comes to working so closely as a family and as business colleagues, the Carlander siblings each stressed how important it is to work together.
“We attack [problems] as a team,” Matthew Carlander said. “Sometimes we don’t all get along, but in the end, we come to common ground and find ways to work through the differences.”
“It does present some challenges,” Koepke admitted. “It’s not always easy working with your family, but, at the end of the day, we’re a family. We count our blessings, and we’re very blessed.”
By now, the fourth generation of Carlanders have also begun taking their places at the bank, with every grandchild working there at least at one point. Koepke’s son, Chad Koepke, joined the family business when he was 16, starting by scraping gum off the parking lot and tackling other menial jobs. He’s currently pursuing a master’s degree with plans to return to the bank once he graduates next year. Meanwhile, Koepke’s daughter, Lauren, also works for the bank and is planning to move to the Prior Lake branch when it opens. John R. Carlander’s three daughters have also all worked at the bank.
While going into the family business is almost a given for every Carlander, that doesn’t mean the road is easy.
“You can take it for granted when you work in a family business that everything is just given to you,” said John R. Carlander. “That’s not how it works in the Carlander family. You’ve got to work and earn everything you have; nothing is just handed for you. We wouldn’t be in business for 100 years if that’s the way things worked.”