In 1963, two venerable Athens institutions – a local community bank and a public television station – got their starts. Now, 50 years later, Hocking Valley Bank and WOUB-TV are both still going strong, continuing to make valuable contributions to the Athens County area and beyond.
To recognize this milestone for both organizations, Hocking Valley Bank employees will hold a Dress Down Day fundraiser this coming Monday on the bank’s 50th anniversary date, Aug. 12, in which employees will donate an hour’s wage, matched by the bank, with the money going to its “nursery mate” from 1963: WOUB-TV.
“We are pleased to be able to use our golden anniversary year as an opportunity to recognize a community institution, WOUB, that, like Hocking Valley Bank, has been dedicated to improving the quality of life here in Southeast Ohio for the past 50 years,” said Bick Weissenrieder, Hocking Valley Bank CEO and Chairman of the Board.
When Hocking Valley Bank was started in 1963, there were two banks operating in the City of Athens – Athens National Bank and Security Bank – both owned by a Cincinnati interest.
“Local leaders believed that a locally owned and controlled bank would better serve Athens County,” said Weissenrieder, “and thus, Hocking Valley Bank was born.”
The bank’s first president, Howard Stout, succinctly stated the goals of the new enterprise in his first letter to shareholders in January 1964: “We hope with your help to make Hocking Valley Bank the biggest little bank in Athens County: big in size, big in strength, big in complete banking service unequalled by any bank of any size, big in friendliness. Big enough to serve you, small enough to know you.”
Fifty years later, Stout and the other co-founders - Art Kasler, Orlan Houck, Dwight Rutherford, Glenn Foster and John Patterson - would be pleased to see how today’s Hocking Valley Bank has remained true to their vision.
Longest serving bank employee is President Scott Nisley, who started in 1972 in his senior year of high school when he worked half-days at the bank as part of his distributive education program at Athens High School. Second in seniority is CEO Weissenrieder, who came to the bank the following year in 1973, when he and his wife, Maureen, moved to Athens when she accepted a teaching position at Ohio University.
In total, the bank has 20 employees who have each been with Hocking Valley Bank more than 20 years. Those 20 employees represent more than 550 years of banking experience.
Hocking Valley Bank opened for business on Aug. 12, 1963 in temporary space at 30 E. State St. A year later, it relocated to a building the bank constructed at 7 W. Stimson Ave. Its headquarters has been there ever since. Along the way, three additional offices were added in the City of Athens (Court St. in 1967, Richland in 1974 and East State St. in 1988) as well as branches in Albany (1969), Coolville (1997) and The Plains (1998).
Starting with only six employees, the new bank grew quickly. Assets by year-end 1963, after only four and a half months in business, hit $2.4 million. Mid-way through the next year, the number of employees had already doubled to 12 and assets neared the $4 million mark. It was clear that people in Athens County did, indeed, feel there was a difference in banking local. Today, Hocking Valley Bank has 57 employees and more than $238 million in total assets.
Each year, the bank holds Dress Down Days that serve as fundraisers for various local organizations and causes. For each Dress Down Day event, Hocking Valley Bank employees contribute an hour’s wage, which the bank matches. In exchange for their donations, employees are allowed to dress casually in jeans and t-shirts for that day, something bankers normally never do.
“Our Dress Down Days have become a tradition here at the bank through the years, and are enjoyed by both the employees and customers,” said Weissenrieder. “We are pleased to give a birthday present to our nursery mate, WOUB, through a Hocking Valley Bank tradition - a Dress Down Day.”