When the National Bank of Rising Sun, Md., first opened its doors, the horse was America’s first mode of transportation. Now, 129 years later, tie-up posts still stand in the bank’s parking lot, and on any given business day you still can find a horse and buggy at the drive-up window.
“Quite a few of our Amish clients come by horse (from across the border in Pennsylvania), so the tie-ups are put to good use,” laughs Bob Noll, bank president. “You can see what the horses have left behind.”
Rising Sun (named after a painted sun on an old roadside tavern sign, no longer in existence) is in the northeast corner of the state, home to 1,263 people, many living on farms outside the village limits. The town’s Main Street is just that—the road leading in and out of the small business district.
The street’s four main businesses—the bank, a restaurant, a pharmacy, and a grocery store—are all within sight of each other, and from the center of Main Street you can see green fields, tree-covered hills, and the silos and barns of tidy farmsteads. At Sue’s restaurant, you find good coffee, conversation, and friends—except during deer season when the doors close so employees can go hunting—and Sun Pharmacy still has a soda fountain with stools.
The bank is, perhaps, at the heart of this community, however. A plaque on Rising Sun’s new town library lists the names of contributors that made the library possible. Small type at the bottom notes that the Bank of Rising Sun contributed the plaque, a $3,000 investment.
“Ninety-five percent of our employees are homegrown,” Noll says. “And every single one is involved with one community project or another, the Lions Club, the Rotary, the American Legion—we’re always there to volunteer time and energy.”
The bank in Rising Sun has been singularly successful and was one of only two in Maryland that never closed its doors during the Great Depression. Many attribute the bank’s success to its uncommon commitment to the farming community it serves.
Jesse Wood has a long history with the locally owned and operated bank—his great-grandfather was one of its founders. “I’ve been involved with this bank pretty much since I was born,” Wood says. “It started as a small community bank and has stayed that way. It’s small enough that when clients walk in, they know our tellers, our president, and our board members by first name,” he says. “We live in the area, too. We’re neighbors. We wouldn’t want to do bad by them.”
The bank building is a testament to history and fits in well with the 19th century feel of the town. Brick and carved stone tell the tale of a business that has withstood the test of time. Heavy double doors that have aged as gracefully as the rest of the building invite folks in, where one half expects to see Jimmy Stewart behind a desk as George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. But while Rising Sun isn’t Bedford Falls, it’s full of friendly faces.
Elsie Perry has been one of those faces for 41 years. As president of lending, she’s had some rewarding experiences. “Just yesterday a girl I helped get a loan called just to say hello, and that was it,” Perry laughs. “That makes me feel good, because we’re about helping people, whether it’s to loan money or set up a savings account.”
Leonardi Lockhart has been a customer for 45 years. A retired attorney on the board of directors alongside local businessmen and area farmers, Lockhart says he wouldn’t bank anywhere else. “This is a wonderful bank to be part of. Everything is done right here, locally,” Lockhart says. “Nothing has to be sent out or called in to a home office somewhere else where a faceless person is in charge of the money.”
Joe Cloud served as president until he retired in 1999. One thing he was most proud of was the unwavering commitment to community. “I remember giving loans for $100 just to get someone by until the next payday. That’s the way the bank is. They don’t advertise it; a loan that small probably costs the bank, but it’s not always about profit,” Cloud says. “It’s about being able to sleep at night because you know your neighbors are taken care of.”