FARGO, ND – Leading up to its 100th anniversary in July 2023, Gate City Bank sat down with some of its longtime customers to learn how the bank has helped them create a better way of life over the years.
Each of the customers, who have been loyal patrons for decades, joined Gate City Bank for a stroll down memory lane. One by one, the conversations revealed the goodness and shared passions between team members and the people they gratefully serve.
From first deposits to second chances, rides home and rides financed, first-name bases and name-brand barbecue sauce, customers told of the little – and not-so-little – things that inspired them to stay with the bank for so many wonderful years. In between smiles, chuckles and tears, they reminisced.
Vernon Shellito has a special place in his heart for Gate City Bank. When he first became a customer nearly 25 years ago, he was struggling to make ends meet.
“It was a time in my life when getting by from week to week was really, really tough,” Shellito said. “I was trying so desperately hard to raise a family of five, and I worked two full-time jobs six days a week.”
Shellito teared up as he recalled his first bounced check. It was unintentional – but devastating for a man doing his best to live a respectable, honest life. He remembers visiting the bank to apologize and try to make things right.
“They’d say, ‘Let’s see if we can help you out.’ And they never made me feel like I wasn’t worthy to come into the bank. Instead, they would try to make me feel good about myself,” Shellito said. “There are people in life who take you by the hand and lead you down a better path. The people at Gate City Bank have bent over backwards for me. They’re my friends, and I need them.”
Fast forward to today, Shellito is all in when it comes to supporting Gate City Bank’s purpose, which is to create a better way of life for customers, communities and team members.
“My whole family banks at Gate City Bank,” he said, adding that he’s had a great experience with multiple accounts, and has successful investments through the bank’s subsidiary, Gate City Investment Services.
A chef by trade, Shellito even has a thriving business – Q-Shack barbecue sauce. It’s used by local establishments such as Meats by John and Wayne, as well as in grocery stores throughout North Dakota. Whenever he visits Gate City Bank, he leaves a few bottles at the counter as a small way of saying thanks for everything the bank has done for him.
“The Gate City Bank team members love it!” he said. “They are great people, and their customer service is above and beyond what you’ll find anywhere else nowadays. They helped me become who I am today.”
Similar to how Gate City Bank team members have learned to keep an eye out for Shellito’s delicious barbecue sauce, they know to have extra butterscotch suckers on hand for Brenda J. Haugstad. Throughout her approximately 50 years with the bank, they’ve learned that she has a sweet tooth – and a sweet personality. Every time Haugstad strolls through the front door, she chuckles as team members smile and reach for her special sucker drawer.
“People know me when I come in,” she said. “They know I like to get two suckers every time.”
Haugstad is quick to talk about how, time and again, Gate City Bank has been there for her. Like when a team member offered to give her a ride home on a cold winter day. Or the time the bank immediately detected fraudulent charges on her debit card and kept them from going through. She even cherishes the memory of winning a crossword puzzle challenge the bank put on, where she scored a Hornbacher’s gift card. “I never win anything,” she said, “but I won that one!”
Ultimately, Haugstad has stayed with the bank so long because team members have always provided her with a great experience. “I’ve never had any trouble,” she said.
While Haugstad reaches for the suckers whenever she visits Gate City Bank, Mark Rye eyes the freshly baked cookies. It’s safe to say he has a taste for better banking.
“They are the best cookies I’ve ever had!” Rye said, adding that chocolate chip is his all-time favorite flavor. Although, the bank will be adding a surprise cookie flavor to its lineup in August, so he may have to chew on that a bit. At the end of the day, it’s the people behind the pastry that have kept him coming back – for over half the bank’s history.
“I just think the world of Gate City Bank. The people there are wonderful, and they treat everyone like family,” Rye said. “I’m proud to say they’ve been my bank for 60 years!”
Rye loves that, as a mutual bank that doesn’t report to shareholders, Gate City Bank prioritizes community giving in a big way. He also appreciates that the bank puts extra care into its customers’ security, protecting accounts and “staying on top of things all the time.”
And when Rye isn’t staying warm down south during the winter months, he’s warming team members’ hearts during the summertime. He knows the names of everyone at his bank location in south Moorhead, MN, as well as the exciting things that are happening in their lives.
“I’m very proud of everyone there,” he said. “They do so many good things, and my family and I appreciate them.”
And that’s how the cookie crumbles.
It’s amazing to think that Gate City Bank’s doors first opened as Gate City Building and Loan Association all the way back in 1923. The bank’s story began 100 years ago, when its founder, William D. Gillespie, assembled a small group of seven tenacious visionaries and led them on an incredible journey, one that would ultimately spark the reimagining of community banking. Indeed, those brave pioneers were on to something.
Looking back on 100 years, the bank has been building something – a legacy. One of innovation, servant leadership, community giving, empowerment and fun. It all started with the coming of the railroad in 1872, when Fargo, ND, was called the “Gateway to the West.” That’s how Fargo got the nickname, “The Gate City.” In 1923, citizens looking for a better way of life thought the name was appropriate for the newly chartered Gate City Building and Loan Association.
The company began with eight original founders who offered passbook savings and conventional mortgage loans. By the end of the first year, assets totaled a mere $16,000.
Gate City Bank (and subsidiaries Gate City Insurance Agency and Gate City Investment Services) is known for offering a host of unique products and services that help customers save time and money. A handful of them include:
Checking customers enjoy ATM fee refunds anytime, anywhere – worldwide. This has saved customers more than $53 million in fees to date!
Gate City Bank’s online and mobile banking (as well as its reinvented mobile app) are uniquely designed to be fast, convenient and safe. Customers can easily navigate their finances by moving money, making payments, monitoring accounts, controlling debit cards and more.
The first and only program of its kind in the nation, it helps customers consolidate debt and pay off student loans faster, featuring no fees and a low interest rate. Since 2015, the bank has helped over 3,400 customers save over $33.3 million in interest. An average of $9,700 saved per customer!
Designed specifically to address the real-world need for more local child care services, this low-interest financing option allows child care providers to easily purchase equipment, cover necessary updates, hire more staff and more – so they can serve more little ones.
Other beneficial services Gate City Bank offers include business banking services, notarizing, coin counting, night deposit, signature guaranty and currency exchange.
Generously giving of time and resources through servant leadership is a huge part of Gate City Bank’s culture! The bank is honored to support its communities through paid volunteer time, charitable contributions and in-kind donations (such as reduced interest rate loans for nonprofit organizations).
Team members have provided $36.6 million in philanthropic giving and more than 285,000 hours of team volunteerism to over 1,000 charities since 2003. In 2022 alone, Gate City Bank’s charitable impact was $3.1 million, including 20,000 volunteer hours.
Gate City Bank encourages team members to give on company time – and for each hour they volunteer beyond 10 hours, the bank gifts approximately $29 per hour to the charity. Team members are encouraged to help charities they’re passionate about. The following causes are especially important to Gate City Bank, to name a few:
In 1923, it’s safe to say that a 100-year legacy was only a dream – and a big one at that. While Gate City Bank continues to be mindful about financial and economic uncertainties, it remains on solid financial footing. Cheers to the next 100 years!
At Gate City Bank, we have a wonderful story to tell. It's aligned with our core purpose, focusing on investing in our customers, communities and team members. Learn more about us!
At Gate City Bank, our customers, communities and team members inspire everything that we are – they’re our people. Learn more about them through heartwarming stories and testimonials!
At Gate City Bank, giving back to the communities where we live and work is at the core of who we are. Learn about all the innovative ways we’re making a difference throughout North Dakota and central Minnesota.