BankCherokee, a St. Paul community bank deeply rooted in its local community, is commemorating an extraordinary milestone of 115 years in business. As a family-owned institution since its inception, BankCherokee has consistently served its customers and supported the community. In an interview with Heidi Gesell and Andy Gesell, key members of the founding family and long-time community bankers, they provide valuable insights into the bank’s rich history, unique advantages, and enduring commitment to its customers.
BankCherokee’s remarkable success can be attributed to its family ownership, with the Gesell family playing a vital role since its establishment. Board Chair Heidi Gesell, with over 40 years of experience, and Andy Gesell, who recently became CEO after 35 years with the bank, exemplify the family’s unwavering dedication and personal investment in the bank. Their shared passion for community banking and their commitment to serving the needs of their customers have contributed to BankCherokee’s longevity and success.
Heidi emphasizes the distinctive advantages of community banking, highlighting the bank’s ability to provide customized financial solutions and personalized advice tailored to the specific needs of individuals and businesses. Unlike larger financial institutions, BankCherokee’s structure allows for flexibility and local decision-making, enabling them to serve their customers in a more intimate and tailored manner. This customer-centric approach sets community banks apart, fostering stronger relationships and a deeper understanding of the community’s unique needs.
Throughout its 115-year history, BankCherokee has faced various challenges and celebrated significant milestones. Andy points to key moments, such as the bank’s founding in 1908 as Merriam Park Bank, its charter move in 1921 to become Cherokee State Bank, and subsequent developments that have shaped the bank’s identity. Additionally, Heidi recounts a devastating fire in 1989 at one of its branches (Smith Avenue) that tested the bank’s resilience. Despite these challenges, BankCherokee rebounded, rebuilt, and expanded its footprint, demonstrating the determination and commitment to the community that has become synonymous with the bank.
Both Heidi and Andy highlight the importance of personal connections and community support. They share heartwarming anecdotes of long-standing customer relationships spanning generations and demonstrate the deep-rooted bonds BankCherokee has formed within the community. The bank’s involvement in local organizations and commitment to economic development has further solidified its position as a trusted advisor and a pillar of support for the community.
Looking ahead, Heidi and Andy acknowledge the ongoing digital transformation in the banking industry. While embracing technology and offering digital services, BankCherokee remains committed to maintaining personal connections and providing a human touch. They recognize the importance of blending innovative solutions with the warm and personalized experience that distinguishes community banks. By staying adaptable and responsive to changing customer needs, BankCherokee aims to remain relevant and at the forefront of community banking.
As BankCherokee celebrates its 115-year milestone, the insights shared by Heidi and Andy underscore the bank’s enduring commitment to the community it serves. With a legacy of family ownership, personalized service, and a deep understanding of local needs, BankCherokee continues to be a trusted partner for individuals and businesses alike. As the bank looks towards the future, it remains dedicated to providing exceptional community banking experiences while embracing technological advancements. BankCherokee’s unwavering commitment to its customers and the community ensures its continued success and longevity for generations to come.