Former VCNB President Ron Collins Has Retired

When Ron Collins stepped down as Vinton County National Bank President in December 2018, he didn’t actually leave the bank family. Instead, he stayed on as CEO, in an advisory role to assist newly minted VCNB President Mark Erslan through the transition. With a mind like a calculator and a keen understanding of banking, Ron was just the ninth president in the bank’s long and storied past and was eager to ease the bank into a new era of leadership.

Ron CollinsRon joined the VCNB family when he came to First Bremen Bank as Head of Lending in 1998. He was named President of the First Bremen Bank in 2001 and served in that capacity until being named President of Vinton County National Bank when the two banks merged in 2009.  One of his accomplishments was using his expertise as a skilled communicator and leader to soften the differences between the two banks, finding common ground and seeking ways to improve the combined operation.

During his career with VCNB, Ron used his vast knowledge of the lending world to improve the bank’s loan portfolio, making it both healthy and profitable.  He also oversaw the development of the Canal Banking Center in Canal Winchester, Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Pataskala and the Jackson County Banking Center in Jackson.

“When I started, the Bremen Bank was about $160 million in assets. Vinton County was over $200 million. Working together, we were able to bridge the gap and now we’re a billion dollar bank. That wasn’t just me. That was because of a lot of people,” he said “And I’m proud to say that we did all of that while staying true to our core values.”

“My wife asked me if I’m sad. Yes, I’m a little sad. It’s like leaving a part of yourself behind. But I have such a sense of accomplishment and a sense of excitement too. I’m excited for the future of our bank, I’m excited for Mark, and I’m looking forward to this next stage in my own life,” he explained.

When asked about his hopes for the bank’s future, Ron discussed VCNB’s place in the banking world. “A bank has to grow to succeed. But the more you grow, there’s risk of losing focus on the community part of community banking. We don’t want to be like the larger regional banks. There are plenty of them but there’s only one VCNB and what makes us special is our commitment to our communities. My hope is that we always offer that personal touch,” he said. “I also hope we always deliver what the customer wants. If they want to talk to a person, I hope there’s always a person to talk to. If they want technology, I hope we give them technology. Whatever is important to the customer should be important to us too.”

He went on to talk about the role of the bank president. “Every president leaves their own mark. We all do things a little differently but we all always put the bank first. That means focusing on the customer, the community, and our employees. As long as we continue to do that, we will do well,” he said. “Mark has been with us for a long time. He understands our culture and what’s important to us so I have no doubt he will lead us well.”

After a lengthy career managing people and learning the ins and outs of different types of workplaces, Ron has much wisdom to share with a young person starting out in business. “I would say you have to ask yourself some questions. Where do I want to go? What do I want from life and from my career? Can I get there with this job or this company? I’ve had offers to move elsewhere but I love our culture and the people I work with. Another job might mean more money but I could be sacrificing things that are important to me,” he added.

What things are important to him?

“Health, family and job. These are the most important things and you have to balance the first two so you can take care of the third,” he said. “You have to look at the total package. We have one employee who can attest to that. She had a good job making good money in another field. But she worked long hours and missed out on a lot. When she asked once to go see her kid play baseball and they told her no, she knew it was time for a change,” he recalled.

He went on to describe the VCNB culture which encourages employees to maintain their health, to volunteer in the community, spend time with family and to have a happy life. “I love our culture here and the people I work with. You spend more time with your coworkers than anyone else in your life. You better like where you are when you go to work.”

Ron officially retired January 31 but he isn’t in any hurry to make a lot of plans. He wants to volunteer somewhere that he can work hands-on with elderly citizens. He enjoys fishing and travel and often combines the two passions. He anticipates visiting the last few states he hasn’t yet seen.

Ron also looks forward to spending time with Gail, his wife of more than forty years, who he credits for supporting him through a host of moves and career advancements over the years. “I couldn’t have done it without her,” he said with a smile.

They have two grown children, Jill and Ron Jr, as well as three grandchildren. “It’s our time. Gail and I will be free to do what we please without the pressures of running a company,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, retiring, but I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

VCNB will host a retirement party for Ron at Kingy’s Pizza in Canal Winchester from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, February 14. The public is invited to attend.

While he won’t be coming to work every day, he will remain a part of the bank family as he plans to remain on the Board of Directors. “It was a pleasure and honor to lead this organization and be able to work with such dedicated people. It’s been my dream job and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.”

 

 

Kevin Coe To Retire On Valentine’s Day

It’s a brand new year and a new decade. 2020 also marks a fresh start for VCNB employee Kevin Coe. The popular Ross County Banking Center Commercial Lender will retire on Valentine’s Day after a 40 plus year career in banking.

Kevin Coe“I’ve achieved what I set out to do. I worked for another bank for twenty years and worked here for twenty. So I’ve made it to 40 years and I’m retiring in 2020 with twenty and twenty at two banks,” he explained. “The timing is right to retire.”

Ask Kevin to talk about his career and he’s very quick to mention his customers. You see, the Chillicothe resident says that his job isn’t just to loan money – it’s to help people. “I love talking to my customers and learning about their businesses,” he explained. “I’ve gotten to start with some customers on the ground floor. Being a part of their businesses and learning about their line of work … well, that’s one of the most rewarding things. I’m a people person so I like to relate to people and to hear their story.”

Kevin’s parents were educators who lived in West Jefferson when he was born. They relocated to Chillicothe when he was just five and he is proud to say he calls Ross County home. After graduating from Chillicothe City Schools, he spent two years at Miami University in Oxford. Uncertain what he wanted to do, he took a break from college and accepted a seasonal position at Mead Corporation in Chillicothe.

While there, he chose to pursue a career in finance. He graduated from Columbus State with an Associate Degree in Banking and Finance before taking a job in the Collections Department at another bank in Chillicothe. He moved into lending after three years before finally becoming a Commercial Lender. After twenty years with that bank, he made the leap to Ross County Banking Center where he started out as a Lender and eventually became a Commercial Lender.

Commercial lending clearly is Kevin’s niche and his interest in people and their businesses has been a key to his success. He is outgoing and kind but it’s the genuine interest that he takes in people that makes customers look forward to doing business with him.

That’s not to say that life has been without problems. The grandfather of three was devastated by the loss of one granddaughter in January 2018. A few months later a blown knee forced him into surgery and off work for the shortest period of time his doctor would permit. When he returned just two and a half weeks after surgery, a new software system for processing loan requests was being implemented.

“I’ll be honest with you. I was struggling. I was in a lot of pain and I’m not a techie person to begin with. Losing my granddaughter . . .  the surgery. . .it was just too much at one time and I didn’t know if I would make it to retirement,” he said. “But I’ve had good people help me along the way and I’m so pleased that I was able to stay until I was ready to retire. I’m grateful to my customers and my coworkers and everyone that has helped me.”

When asked if he has advice for someone considering a career in banking, Kevin’s answer went back to the human aspect of the job. “It’s a rewarding career but if you’re not a people person, lending is probably not the career for you. If you like people, if you’re interested in their successes and in what they care about, you’ll love it,” he exclaimed.

While Kevin looks forward to having free time, to catching up on some things around the house and maybe even playing a little golf, he isn’t in any hurry to leave.  “I’m not counting the days or anything like that. I know how long I have but I’m not dying to leave. In fact, I’m sure I’ll miss working. I know I’ll miss the people,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to doing something different. Catch up on things at home, maybe find a part-time job to keep me busy,” he said with a grin.

He does look forward to having more time with his family including Debbie, his wife of 37 years. “I’m so blessed that I had the opportunity to come to work here. Wow, retiring! It’s going to be a big change. For forty plus years I’ve gotten up and gone to work,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it!”

“Banking has been a rewarding career and I am blessed to have worked with so many fine people and to meet so many great people throughout my 40 plus years in the business. And to be able to work in my hometown was icing on the cake.”

Customers and friends are invited to join Kevin for an informal reception at his office on East Main Street in Chillicothe from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12.

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: Georgie Emerson Vintage

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

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Coming home. That’s how it feels when you enter Georgie Emerson Vintage.

Here you will find a comfortable atmosphere filled with beautiful things. Here you will find kind people who can’t wait to see what you have chosen. You will find laughter and a sense of belonging that will make you want to stay and shop just a little longer.

In every nook and cranny you will find something special, something you won’t find in any other store. Not to mention Pippa, the precious rescue dog who presides over the shop, accepting kisses, ear scratches and other forms of attention lavished on her by loyal shoppers and admirers.

1D4F8768-A1DC-419C-BCB9-9D82B4C2E06AWhen Polly McCormick was a little girl and people asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said Nels Olsen on Little House on the Prairie. “I always wanted to be Nels, to have that store counter. So I would play general store and my parents would be my customers,” she laughed.

Today she owns what she calls a vintage lifestyle shop with an enormous sales counter, large rolls of paper and twine, and an atmosphere that would make Nels proud.

She described her childhood with a mother who took her to yard sales, flea markets and auctions. They would find old pieces to clean, reimagine and transform into treasures. “She taught me to paint, sew, craft – I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” she said.

Yet, the road from playing mercantile to owning one was long and painful at times. She had a corporate career for several years and was working as Human Resources Manager for Big Lots when her parents fell ill and she took time off to care for them. After her father died, Polly said she worked to keep her mom in her own home for about seven years. During that time, Polly opened a booth at an antique mall, quietly growing this business and working part time at the antique mall where she learned about working retail.

It was after her mother passed in 2012 that Polly was feeling a little lost and the seeds of Georgie Emerson were planted.  With encouragement and support from her husband Mick, a small shop in downtown Canal was born. But that first 485 square foot shop was short lived as the business grew quickly. In fact, they are now in their fourth location, a 5,000 square foot space that allows Polly and her girls and guys to play with displays and to create charming vignettes at every turn.

Her girls and guys are a few of the 29 local people who create handmade items that are available only at Georgie Emerson.  Some helped Polly look past dirt and junk to transform their current location from cavernous to cozy. “I couldn’t have done it without their help. I might not be here if it weren’t for them,” she said.

Those 29 artists and artisans from Canal Winchester, Lancaster, Pickerington, Ashville and points in between work in a number of mediums  including ceramics, woodworking, crafting, sewing, metalwork, jewelry and painting. These Georgie Emerson exclusive items give the shop a sense of handmade flair to accompany fine quality vintage and antique items, and carefully curated reproduction pieces.

Clothing and accessories, furniture, wall art and a host of decorative items pack the store without feeling overwhelming

Polly finds inspiration in French country as well as modern farmhouse, using a palette of soft colors, beautiful textures and weathered patinas to create a sophisticated yet simple and warm environment.  “And fun! We want people to have fun with their homes. We want them to have fun with us,” she exclaimed. “I want people to feel like they got a hug when they visit here. Having a bad day? Shop here and you’ll laugh, you’ll be inspired, you can pet a dog and be happy,” she gushed while gesturing toward Pippa tucked away in her bed on the counter. Little Pippa presides over the shop, eager to meet a new friend and to greet an old one. People frequently pick her up, cuddling the affectionate little dog while they browse.

While Pippa clearly enjoys the attention, it seems her human friends gain something special from the interaction as well.  “People just love Pippa and you can tell it makes their day better having her here,” Polly said.

Pippa isn’t the only one to give special attention to customers. Watch Polly interact with customers for a few minutes and it is clear that she takes an interest in everyone who comes in. She knows their birthdays, the names of their pets and what they purchased last time. She inquires about a sick grandmother and about whether someone else is ready for their big move. She’s so friendly and engaging with everyone around her that the store takes on the atmosphere of a slumber party at times.

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“I guess I’m kind of a dreamer and have a bit of gypsy soul,” she said. “But in all my dreams, I never imagined it would become what it is today.”

The store that began as a tiny shop in 2012 continues to grow. Soon they will open Georgie Celebrates, a classroom space that will be available for rent for small parties. Polly expects the space to be available by spring.

Want to visit? George Emerson Vintage is located at 360 West Waterloo Street in Canal Winchester. They are open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Have questions?  Call 614.562.9938 or ask them on Facebook.  They go live on Facebook at least once a week and often post pictures and videos of new merchandise so be sure to follow them for the latest news!

Want to see more of the merchandise? Check out the slideshow below!

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Brenda Prater Brooks To Retire This Month

When Brenda Prater Brooks came to work for Vinton County National Bank in 1979, President Bob Will joked that she was kicking the slats out of the cradle. Just over forty years later, Brenda is retiring as the second most senior employee in the bank.

Brenda BrooksShe never intended to stay this long but instead planned to work while going to college and eventually move on. “This is where God wanted me. I got married, had two kids and never left. Life is good,” she smiled.

Brenda began her banking career as a teller – first inside the lobby and later at the drive-thru. “On my first day, they gave me a cash drawer and told me any money out, write on the right side and money in gets written on the left. And you know what? I balanced my first day!”

When she started at the bank, the lobby was open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily and until noon on Thursday and Saturday. “We didn’t have any of the technology we have today. Everything was done by hand and no one left until the General Ledger was balanced. You didn’t want to be the reason it wouldn’t balance,” she joked. “You felt about an inch tall because everyone had to wait around all because of your mistake.”

With everything filed and kept manually, when a customer wanted to know if a check had been cleared, the teller went downstairs to find the check. “We didn’t have an elevator back then so it was a lot of trips up and down the stairs. I was thin back then!” she laughed.

She speaks about many former colleagues with admiration, especially those who were here when she first started and who taught her to be a good representative of the bank. She is especially fond of Rosemary Reynolds and Ruth Molihan who were New Accounts Officers for many years. “I always thought they were the classiest ladies ever. Never a hair out of place, make-up done perfectly.  They were always so professional and kind. I wanted to be like them,” she said.

When Rosemary left the bank in 1991, Brenda got her chance to be like those ladies in New Accounts. “They put me across from Ruth and I learned so much,” she said. “I’ve done everything on the deposit side but never loans. I’m not sure I could tell someone who really needed money that I could not do a loan for them,” she said.

Brenda points out that many of her early customers have passed away. Now she’s serving their children and grandchildren. “I’ve loved every minute of getting to know my customers,” she said before talking about some of the births, marriages, retirements, deaths, celebrations and sorrows that she has witnessed in the lives of her customers. She even remembers two current VCNB employees when they were just tiny tots sitting on her lap while playing with her typewriter. “They’re all grown up now!” she exclaimed.

It is her own life experience that Brenda believes has helped her better relate to some of her customers. She specifically mentioned how the passing of her first husband has allowed her to relate to customers who have lost spouses. “I’m a firm believer that our experiences make us who we are and that we should use the knowledge and compassion we gain to help others,” she said.  “I’ve been able to better relate to my customers who have lost spouses because I’ve been through it. And unless you’ve been through it you just don’t know,” she said.

She will miss her bank family and customers but looks forward to having more time with her own family. With a husband, two grown kids, three grandsons, lots of friends and elderly parents, she has much to keep her busy and to look forward to. “I am so excited to just do my own thing and to have more time for what I need to do,” she said.

Brenda reluctantly admits that some of her customers will miss her. “People don’t like change and honestly, I don’t either. I remember when Rosemary left, so many people were reluctant to give me a chance. And when I started, if the system went down, that meant my pencil was broken and I needed to sharpen it,” she laughed. “So much has changed in these forty years but it’s a necessary part of life.”

Brenda is known for her good customer service so when asked what advice she would give someone in a customer service job, her response was decisive. “Never judge someone for their appearance and never treat anyone differently than you yourself would want to be treated. Every customer is important. They are the reason we have a job.”

“I will miss the people. Some have become like family but to everything there is a season. It’s time for me to leave,” she said.

Brenda will retire on January 31 along with three other longtime employees. Jane Nickelsand Barb Clemons in McArthur and Elaine Praterin Richmond Dale will retire that day as well. An informal reception will be held for customers and friends in McArthur on January 29 and a reception for Elaine will be held on January 29 in Richmond Dale.

 

The End Of An Era: Jane Nickels Will Retire This Month

Jane Nickels is certain that no one will miss her at the bank after she retires on January 31. But it will be a sad day for the scores of customers she serves as well as coworkers she has mentored along the way. That’s because Jane has been a fixture at the bank’s first office in McArthur for most of the last 45 years.

Jane NickelsJane first came to work at the bank as a teller in 1974. At the time, the bank had just the one location at 112 West Main Street in McArthur and was about to open its first branch in nearby Wilkesville. With an approximate asset size of seventeen million, the bank employed a fraction of the people it does today.

Since then she has worked in a variety of roles including Head Teller, Loan Clerk, Customer Service Representative, Installment Lender, New Accounts Officer and Customer Service Supervisor. She left in the late eighties but was gone just five years before resuming her career with the bank. Most McArthur customers know her well and many customers from across the bank nation have benefited from her years of experience and problem solving skills.

Jane has been the McArthur Branch Manager for fifteen years and, through that leadership position, has taken on another role that is not listed on her business card –  that of mentor.

Jane has mentored countless bankers throughout her career. Men and women of all ages have learned from her extensive institutional knowledge, customer service experience and proven abilities when it comes to getting the job done. Anyone who benefited from being taken under Jane’s wing will say that she taught them that what is good for the bank and what is good for the customer are not necessarily two different things.

Women in particular have benefited from seeing Jane in action as the working mom balanced the bank and home while still making time to be active in the community and to hold a sincere interest in the lives of her customers.

But Jane would be embarrassed to have such things said about her. Instead she prefers to focus on the progress of the bank and the people who helped her along the way.

With no computers, direct deposit, debit cards or ATMs, customers came into the bank to do all their business. “There was no direct deposit so all lanes would be backed up on Friday afternoon, people bringing their paychecks to the drive-thru to be cashed. I got to see and meet a lot of people and I established relationships with a lot of those customers. Over the years they become more like friends than just customers and that’s the best part,” she said.

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Jane is pictured with President Bob Will and coworker Doris Adelmann in the early days of her career.

She remembers especially fondly the opening of The Depot Drive-Thru, a building that resembles a train depot, where she and Doris Adelmann served customers on the go under the supervision of VCNB President Bob Will. “I remember that Bob moved his office down there for the first three months. It was a bit nerve racking having the Bank President there all day but I learned more about what was expected of me, what Bob wanted for the bank than I did at any other time,” she recalled.

She spoke fondly of Bob as she discussed the many people who mentored her over the years. “Oh, I learned so much from Bob. He didn’t miss anything. I also learned from many other mentors. There have been too many to name but the earliest people to help me, besides Bob, were Jerry Griffith and Belle Jenkins. They were wonderful role models for how to conduct oneself in the workplace and for how to treat a customer. But really, I have been fortunate to have so many people who took the time to help me,” she said.

She always laughs when talking about Jerry Griffith and how discouraging it could be to work alongside him. “He was a genuinely kind man who knew his customers and took an interest in them all. Working next to him was humbling because people would line up out the door to see Jerry and when you asked if you could help them they would say they would wait for him. I learned the phrase ‘May I help you?” because I repeated it so much!” she said. “Maybe it was from Jerry most of all I learned the importance of kindness and truly caring for the customer before you.”

Another person whose name popped up more than once in conversation was Belle Jenkins, the bank’s first female employee. “Belle ran a tight ship. She set the standard and was a role model for how to treat customers, how a lady should behave and how we should act professionally both inside and outside the bank,” Jane said. “What a good role model she was. I was lucky to have many good role models to learn from. It’s so important to have that person to share how VCNB wants things run and how the customer should be treated.”

She speaks fondly of some of the more unusual projects the bank took on over the years. For example, when the bank expanded to Wilkesville with the opening of a new coal mine, Jane and other bankers would go to the mine to open accounts and help the miners with their business. They would visit between shifts and set up a table just outside the showers.

“The idea of a community bank is that you’re a part of the community, providing services and getting out into the community whenever possible. It’s not just about banking services. It’s about supporting Christmas in Downtown and helping with the concessions stand at ball games. It’s about helping out with coat drives or volunteering in the community,” she explained.

She pointed out that the one constant in the world of banking is that nothing ever stays the same. Regulatory changes and changing customer demands dictate constant change each year. When asked about some of the better changes over the years, she recalled several. She remembers the bank’s first ATM, a large machine placed in the front of the building facing Main Street in McArthur. “Earl Cecil and I went outside and showed people how to use it. Bob’s idea was that people would use the ATM if we helped them feel comfortable with it,” she said.

Another improvement was the addition of the South Lobby and parking lot. “This was a big improvement for the customer, having a place to park next to the door. Parking along Main Street isn’t always easy to do and this made banking so much more convenient. “

When asked if she has advice for the young bankers she won’t be here to guide, her answers were very customer focused. “There’s nothing more important to a customer than their finances and they trust us to take care of things for them. Bob always advised three things. First, you always listen to the customer. You always express empathy for them. And then you try to resolve their problem. You can’t always resolve a situation in a way that makes the customer happy but you should do what you can,” she said. “I also think it’s important to remember that the customer is why we’re here and that the bank is only as good as the quality of the information you share. There is nothing wrong with telling a customer that you don’t know the answer as long as you’re willing to find that answer for them.”

While Jane is excited to retire, she says she will miss the people.  “This office has always been a family. Here coworkers are your second family and your customers are your third,” she smiled.

She plans to volunteer some and spend more time with her two granddaughters. She also wants to take some small trips and soak in the sun at the beach for a while. But first, she looks forward to simply staying inside this winter.

“I hope that individuals know that I truly care about them. I have enjoyed my customers and getting to know them and their families. They have made my career here rewarding and I will miss them,” she said.

Customers are invited to join Jane for an informal reception in the bank lobby on January 29. This day we will also celebrate the retirements of Brenda Brooks and Barb Clemons who all will retire from McArthur on January 31.

 

 

Barb Clemons Will Retire January 31

Barb ClemmonsThe tellers who work with Barb Clemons like to tell newcomers not to be offended when customers don’t want their help. That’s because Barb has a following of customers who would simply rather wait for Barb. She’s been working at our McArthur office for almost 33 years and her customers have come to know her and trust the work she does.

She knows them well too. “You get to know them and how they want their work done. They like to just hand you their stuff and know that it will be correctly done. You learn who you can joke around with and they will tell you about their life and things that are important to them,” she said. “I’m glad people want to come to my window. It makes you feel appreciated.”

Barb has a good sense of humor and an easy laugh but she takes her work seriously, always focused on the task at hand and on pleasing the customer. “People don’t realize how much is involved in teller work. There’s a lot to do and remember and it can get stressful. A lot of people think we just stand there and count money but it’s a really complicated job,” she said.

She’s so good at what she does that she trains most of the new tellers in McArthur. In fact, countless tellers have benefited from Barb’s years of experience. “I have trained a lot of tellers. Lots and lots of tellers. You know I trained Mark Erslan when he came here,” she said.

Now the bank president, Mark started with VCNB as a management trainee, a program that required he learn several jobs including teller. She laughs as she recounts the day that his drawer was off a single dime. “He likes to tease me about that day.  He went home that night and found that dime in the cuff of his dress pants,” she said.  “He came in the next day with that dime and we teased him about it. Sure, Mark, it was there all the time!”

When asked about the advice she gives new tellers she thought for a moment before saying “you know there’s really so much that you need to know but the first thing you need to do is pay close attention to what the customer is saying. You need to hear what they want and if you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to repeat things so they can confirm it,” she explained. “The customer in front of you should be the most important person. Make them feel special and important. Make them feel comfortable.”

Before coming to work for the bank, Barb worked at a local nursing home for close to ten years. Some former classmates who worked for the bank thought she would be a good fit for an open teller position in Wilkesville and they asked her to apply for the position. But after a month of training in McArthur then President Bob Will was so impressed with her that he asked her to stay on in McArthur where she would have more opportunity for advancement.

Barb tried working in new accounts but quickly realized that she really enjoyed being a teller and that the new accounts position was not for her. “I would like to think that I’m good at what I do and I like that every day is different. Yes, I do the same things all day but the customers are different every day and that keeps things interesting.”

After close to 43 years in the workforce, Barb is excited to have some free time. “I can’t even imagine what it will be like to get up when I want and not have to come someplace but I’m looking forward to it. I just want to sit on the porch swing and do what I want to do,” she exclaimed.  “I’m looking forward to having time to get out and do things, to go to lunch with my friends, to keep up with stuff around the house.”

She and husband Mark were high school sweethearts and have been married for 45 years. They have two grown children and four grandkids. “I’m looking forward to spending more time with them and having time to go to the kids’ ballgames and things. But I will miss my customers and my coworkers. Some of my customers have expressed that they’re sad to see me go but that they’re happy for me. I want them to know I’ll miss them too.”

Barb will officially retire on January 31 alongside longtime coworkers Jane Nickels and  Brenda Brooks. Customers can stop by the bank on January 29 to wish the ladies well during an informal reception. A reception will also be held at our Richmond Dale office that day to honor Elaine Prater who also will retire on January 31.

 

Elaine Prater To Retire This Month

Elaine praterWhen Elaine Prater started at the bank in Richmond Dale, she was a part time teller with no thoughts of making it a career. The bank was close to home and to her kids’ school, providing a convenient opportunity to make some extra money.

More than 38 years have passed since then. She’s now the much beloved manager of that branch and is looking forward to her retirement on January 31. “In the beginning I worked as part time teller on Monday, Friday, Saturday and on the first and third of the month. I covered vacations too,” she laughed.

“I discovered that I really enjoyed the people and I never left,” she said.

The branch changed hands a few times over the years before joining the VCNB family in 2008. Over time she worked her way up to Branch Manager, a position she’s held since 1997. “I’ve been a banker for 38 years and worked for four banks but I’ve done it all right here!” she exclaimed.

During that time she’s witnessed significant changes in the industry and the way customers want to bank. “When I started we didn’t have a single computer in the branch. Then we got a computer for behind the teller line and now we all have computers. It’s really changed the way we work,” she said.

Elaine also remembers when ATMs and online banking were introduced. “Our customers loved the ATM but the thing that impressed them the most was online banking. Customers were quick to adopt to banking with their own computer, being able to do things for themselves,” she said. “Some of our older customers still don’t use online banking and we have people who can’t get internet at home but that’s ok. We can help them in other ways. That’s the beautiful thing about being a community banker,” she said.

She went on to talk about the many ways community bankers can look out for their customers. “Sometimes we balance checkbooks. We know the families including all the kids and grandkids. Sometimes we just visit with them,” she said. “When I ask a customer how they’re doing, it means something to me. It means a lot to know that they’re ok or that I can help when there’s a problem. It means something knowing that I can be happy for them when there’s good news. They’re not just customers. They’re all important to me,” she said.

Elaine looks forward to having the free time that comes with retirement but doesn’t necessarily intend to slow down. For example, she hopes to volunteer at the hospital. “It sounds kind of corny but I want to give back. I want to give comfort” she explained while remembering a time that her grandson was quite ill while in Guatemala, waiting for his adoption to be finalized. “I was so thankful he had compassionate people to care for him. He needed the surgery by the time he was six months old. When they stepped off the plane, he was already scheduled for surgery two weeks later, on the day he turned six months.

Elaine and her husband Gary recently celebrated 51 years of marriage and she’s looking forward to having more time with him. The pair work together running a concessions business that takes them to events across Ohio and Kentucky. They have two grown children and four grandkids. Two of those grandchildren live in California and it is her hope visit them soon. She would also like to continue volunteering with Salvation Army and remain active with her church.

She laughed when she talked about coming back to “visit with the girls” at the branch. I worked with Brenda for 22 years and Lauren for seventeen. That’s a long time to just stop coming around!”

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long. It’s been fun. We all have those days that it gets overwhelming or that it isn’t fun but I’m grateful for every single day. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here. I’ll miss the people but I think this is the right time to go,” she said.

Elaine’s last day will be on Friday, January 31. Customers can stop by the branch on January 29 to have cupcakes and visit with her.

Beth Bayless To Retire January 15

Beth BaylessCanal Banking Center customers know Beth Bayless as the quick witted banker who is always ready with a kind word and smile. Her coworkers see Beth as a smart cookie who knows her business. All of them will be sad to see her go when she retires on January 15.

Beth joined the VCNB family in 2002 just before the completion of the bank’s new Canal Winchester location. She likes to joke that she came with the building as she remembers tracking the construction progress for months leading up to their opening. “They practically built it around me,” she quipped.

The Canal Winchester native has a total of 35 years in banking after a short stint in education. She went to college in Arizona where she taught Physical Education for three years. She later transitioned in to banking and built a name for herself at two banks in Phoenix.

When she was moving back to Canal Winchester in 2002, her mother told her about a billboard she saw on Route 33. It advertised the new Canal Banking Center and her mom thought it sounded like a good opportunity. “Mom saw the billboard on 33 and picked up an application at E. Main. The rest is history, I guess you would say.”

Beth’s philosophies toward her customers have served her and her customers well over the years. “Ask yourself – how do you want to feel when you go in someplace you’re not familiar? How do you want to feel when you have a question that you’re not sure about or a problem you don’t understand? It’s important to put people at ease and laughter is sometimes the way to do that,” she explained. “You have to be available to listen and to help.”

She also spoke of the benefits of working for a community bank as opposed to a big one. “We still have the opportunity to know everyone in the bank, to know who to call for an answer or to take care of a problem quickly at a critical time in a customer’s life.  How cool is it that we can affect a customer’s life in that way? Every one of us has that power within this organization and I really do love that,” she said.

She says she will miss the people but is looking forward to the free time and relaxation that will come with retirement. She has a trip planned and has her eye on some non-profits she would like to help. “Other than that, I’m just going to wait and see what happens,” she said. “It’s been incredible. Working here has been the best over-the-top fun and a good ride but I’m happy for the opportunity to do something else.”

Beth’s last day will be on January 15. Stop by the bank to wish her the best in her retirement!

 

Small Business Spotlight: Stuart Burial Vaults

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

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This month’s Small Business Spotlight is with a business that recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. While they provide a service that most people need at some point in their lifetime, it isn’t the kind of business most of us frequent or even know exists.

Does this sound like a riddle?

It’s not really. The company in question is Stuart Burial Vaults, a family owned business that is still in their original building in Bremen.

“The vault is not what the public sees.  They know us for the tent they see when they arrive to the site in the funeral procession” says John Boone who is just the fifth owner of the 100 year old business.  “We take pride in the vaults we make as well as helping to provide a tasteful presentation for family and friends who want to honor their loved ones.”

Stuart Burial Vaults was started by John Stuart, a contractor and businessman who was making a name for himself in the early 1900s through his quality of work and his 9-bag mix of concrete.  As his reputation grew so did the size and importance of his projects.  He worked on bridges and roadways throughout the county that long outlived their expected lifecycle. He was even asked to consult with the construction of the Hoover Dam in Nevada!  Stuart was able to send his son to be on-site during the construction while he stayed home to run the vault business he created in 1919.

80424136_1488441691310400_2659597844519845888_nStuart Burial Vaults was actually one of the first four concrete vault businesses in the country.  In addition to creating and running the business, John Stuart was also a founding member of the National Burial Vault Association, which helped establish industry wide guidelines and standards.

“Just like Mr. Stuart 100 years ago, we work hard and take pride in what we do and we’re proud of it” John Boone beamed.

To say there is more than meets the eye to the business would be an understatement.  It’s not commonly known, but the customer base for a vault company is primarily made up of funeral directors.  Funeral directors order directly from the vault company. Then John and his team arrange for the delivery of the vault, the set-up of the presentation as well as the installment, tear-down, and return afterwards.

John estimates there are five appointments on the schedule of a typical day.  However, there have been more than twenty scheduled for a single day in the past. While this is a challenge, he credits his team’s professionalism and determination for always making it work out.  “If it can be done, we’ll find a way.  It’s amazing – we always work it out!”

Stuart Burial Vaults has nine trucks, a fleet of “buggies” for vault transport, and eleven employees on staff in addition to John.  John is tasked with orders, logistics, billing, and much of the day-to-day business dealings but he credits Foreman Delbert Hammer for making the business operate smoothly. “These guys are my heroes” John says repeatedly when referring to his team. “And Delbert is critical to our business.”

On days with fewer appointments, the crew works on creating and maintaining inventory.  That way, when they do have couple of days or weeks with busy schedules, they have the inventory to fulfill orders.

“The crew of guys we have now has been with me for years.  They can go out and wrestle a 2,000 pound vault in a muddy cemetery – handling it safely – and still have to bring a nice white tent back to me after it’s all said and done.  We have to have our tent look like this (points to pristine white tent in a photo) on a cold, wet, rainy, muddy, snowy day and still bring it back looking like this.”“They’re always on call.  Saturdays, holidays, bad days, good days.  We’re always on call just like police or doctors or firefighters.  These guys are my heroes.”

John first joined the Stuart team when he was sixteen and has spent most of his life in the business.  Now in his fifties, he owns the business after a lifetime of watching the industry and society evolve.  Cultural and societal shifts, insurance costs and coverage, costs associated with materials, and the wants and needs of funeral directors are things that have impacted the business.  “It didn’t change a bit for eighty years!  And now in the last decade things are changing quickly… but at the end of the day, it’s cement, sand, water, and gravel for us.  And it always will be.”

In addition to crediting his staff, John also credits his customers for the sustained success of the century year old business.

“My customers are great people.  I don’t have to worry and deal with some of the not-so-fun stuff that other businesses have to worry about.” John explained.  “Most of our customers have been with us for a long, long time.  Decades.” John explained. “I’m so lucky!”

Stuart Burial Vaults is located at 527 Ford Street, on their original site in Bremen. Visit their website to learn more. Friendly Bremen Banking Center and the VCNB financial family would like to congratulate John and his staff, and all of the previous owners and employees on reaching such a milestone!

 

 

Out With A Bang: Sheila Stickel Will Retire On New Year’s Eve

Sheila S.JPGWhen Sheila Stickel started with Vinton County National Bank in 1999, the bank had just three locations in McArthur, Wilkesville and Chillicothe. Much bank work was still done manually and online banking hadn’t even been invented.

Since then, the bank has expanded immensely and Sheila has worked in several branches and jobs, helping countless customers in many ways. But no matter her role here, Sheila always has the needs of the customer at heart.

That’s why her customers will be sad to learn that Sheila’s career with the bank will end when she retires on December 31.

A Vinton County native, Sheila worked for Society Bank in Columbus in the seventies and eighties before she went to an ophthalmic distributor where she sold equipment to eye doctors. When her sister, longtime VCNB lender Brenda Fee, called and suggested she apply for the Head Teller position in Chillicothe, Sheila thought it was worth a shot.

Today she is part of the VCNB Products and Services group, a team of five that tests, implements and maintains new products and services. They also assist both personal and business customers as well as bank employees who need help with those products and services.  She is well known to Business Online Banking customers as their go-to person for all answers about that class of products that she just calls “BOB.”

When she’s not helping customers, she’s busy generating several daily reports as well as monthly reports for lenders, New Accounts Offers and Personal Bankers.

Before going to Products and Services in 2012, Sheila worked directly with customers as Teller, Head Teller, New Accounts Officer and Branch Manager in a few different locations including West Fair Lancaster, Canal Winchester, Main Street Chillicothe, Laurelville and Tarlton. Since joining Products and Services, she has also worked in Ashville and Circleville, bringing the total number of branches she has worked in to seven.  She has visited all of the branches except the newest in Jackson. “I’m proud to say that I got to work in so many branches and see so many grow,” she said.

“I’ve seen the construction of some branches and the merging of some. We’ve gone from teller machines to online banking. Probably the most impressed I’ve been was going from the old teller machines to computers,” she smiled, explaining that teller machines were basically just large adding machines.

During the years before computers, everything was done manually. From manually stuffing statement envelopes to bundling up work for the Proof Department to process in another office, everything took longer and was more challenging than we find in the tech friendly bank of today. When the bank introduced online banking they held a contest for naming the product. Her entry “Bank to the Future” didn’t become the name of online banking but was used as the slogan. “I won a day off for the idea and Marketing went to town and used that to promote our Online Banking!”

Much has changed since Sheila won that contest as customers can now do almost all their business and personal banking online. “Today businesses can do almost everything they need with the click of a mouse. It just fascinates me how much control they have over their accounts and activities,” she said.

While she says she will miss the people, Sheila has a lot to look forward to including spending time with her recently retired husband and two grown children. She is especially excited to spend time with her seven year-old grandchild and a new grandbaby expected in June.

She looks forward to traveling some and to simply doing what she wants to do on her own time. “I have enjoyed my job but it’s time to hang up my hat,” she smiled. “Happy trails to me!”

The bank will celebrate Sheila’s retirement with a party on New Year’s Eve. Stop by the Pickaway County Banking Center in Circleville that day to wish Sheila good luck in this exciting new stage of her life!