Normally, my biweekly offerings have to do with Napa of old, back when I was a youth and young adult some 60 or 70 years ago. However, today’s article is about Napa Valley Bank (NVB), a local financial institution that officially opened its doors in 1971, a mere 44 years ago.
After 25 years of success, Napa Valley Bank ceased to operate when the bank and its holdings were sold to Westamerica Bank in 1996.
When NVB began operations in 1971, there were only four bank branches in Napa: two were branches of the Bank of America, one at their still existing branch at 1700 First St., near Jefferson, and the other at the corner of Main and Second streets, now a branch of Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo had a branch at First and Franklin, about where the Norman Rose restaurant is today, and Crocker Anglo Bank had one at the Freeway Shopping Center, now the site of the Napa Premium Outlets.
NVB’s founding directors, all citizens of Napa, were Bill Brooks, Napa appliance store owner; Jim Maggetti, senior executive with Kaiser Steel Corp.; Dwight (Bud) Murray Jr., Napa physician and surgeon; Earl Randol, Napa County sheriff; and Bob Zeller, Napa attorney at law. Dale Kirkpatrick was the founding manager and president.
They began their fledgling business by leasing a small building at 528 Third St., near the Napa Expo fairgrounds, where they sold stock in the new bank while acquiring a downtown site and constructing their first branch at 1400 Clay St., corner of Franklin. That was the first of nine branches in three counties.
Napa Valley Bank began serving locals on June 3, 1971, and, because the leadership was not afraid of going against tradition, was an immediate local success.
Prior to NVB, banking institutions operated during what was called “banker’s hours.” All banks, to include those in Napa at the time, were open only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.
Napa Valley Bank did not adhere to bankers’ hours. They were open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The innovative hours allowed working people to conduct banking during their off-work hours.
It was not long before other banks, even the largest, saw the benefit of the NVB hours and changed theirs accordingly.
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After the downtown Clay Street branch was in operation, the bank directors developed two more branches in Napa. One was at their new banking and office complex at 5 Financial Plaza on Trancas and Soscol avenues, and the other at River Park.
They also opened branches in what is now American Canyon, in the very small, but developing, town of Yountville and in St. Helena.
NVB was insured by the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and, when all of their assets were acquired by Westamerica Bank in 1996, their total assets were $174.8 million.
I was a customer of NVB to the very end and hated to see them cease operation because, unlike other such institutions, they were local. I was personal friends with the entire board of directors and many of the employees. When I entered the bank, I was greeted by friends and neighbors and, without fail, saw customers who were friends. That’s a good feeling.
After NVB, other local banks came into being and they, too, eventually sold out to larger banks. Napa National Bank in the old Bank of America building at Main and Second streets was sold to Wells Fargo, The Vintage Bank on Soscol at McKinstry was sold to Umpqua Bank, and Napa Community Bank, on the corner of Trancas and Big Ranch Road, was sold to Rabobank.
As of today, Napa has one locally owned bank. That’s the Bank of Napa in the Vallerga’s shopping center on Redwood Road, which was founded in 2006. It has been very successful and continues to grow in assets and reputation.
The Bank of Napa recently opened a second branch in the downtown area, across from the old post office. Tom LeMaster, the bank’s president and CEO, began his banking career with Napa Valley Bank. Tom assured me that there are no plans for the sale of his bank to a larger institution.
That’s good. Napa needs a successful local bank that caters to local customers. Napa Valley Bank did it for 25 years, now it is The Bank of Napa’s turn.