Respect, dedication among values that helped North American State Bank reach 125th
WILLMAR — Christopher Borgerding decided he wanted to go into business for himself rather than work in his family’s bank in Melrose.
The young German arrived in Belgrade to open a new bank on May 17, 1889.
Next month, the bank he founded, North American State Bank, will celebrate 125 years in business.
The bank will host a community open house from noon to 3 p.m. at its Belgrade location on May 17.
While other banks have come and gone, North American State Bank has persevered through the years, dealing with two devastating bank fires and working with the community through economic upheaval, wars and epidemics. The bank has expanded to Elrosa and to Willmar.
George Borgerding, the 85-year-old grandson of founder Christopher, said he wasn’t sure why the bank had survived when many others had not.
“We were interested in the area,” he offered.
Christopher Borgerding arrived in Belgrade during a Syttende Mai celebration, though the young German didn’t know what it was at the time. He soon realized that he’d have to learn something about Norwegians to do business in his new town.
“He even learned to speak Norwegian,” George Borgerding said. “In order to communicate, he had to speak the language.” Christopher Borgerding learned the language from a Lutheran pastor, and he taught the pastor German.
Banking has been a longtime family occupation, George Borgerding said. He is now board chair emeritus of North American State Bank.
Four different Borgerdings have been mayors of Belgrade over the years.
Good service and personal respect were hallmarks of the family’s business, he said.
“That was drilled into us by our forefathers — treat everybody with respect; don’t belittle anybody,” he said. “It was drilled into us and that’s how we tried to operate.”
An employee survey indicated that employees are proud of the expertise, community involvement, local decision-making and customer services provided by the staff at the bank’s locations.
Current president and CEO Dean Perry said he enjoys seeing people stop in the bank in Belgrade to visit with Borgerding.
The family’s longevity may have helped, too, George Borgerding said. His uncle Henry was in charge of the bank for years and lived to be 100.
George Borgerding still comes to work every day in Belgrade at the age of 85. He started working at the bank in 1950 and has worked there since, aside from four years in the service. He still clerks at the sale barn in Belgrade every Thursday.
Perry, who has been with the bank about a year and a half, said the long-term survival of the bank is remarkable.
“When you look at it, that’s really a testimony to the family and its commitment to the area,” he said.
Perry is aware of the responsibility of safeguarding the bank’s 125-year legacy. “You don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that,” he said.
“It is an amazing thing, especially from a banking perspective,” he said. “We’ve seen lots of banks merge or go out of business.”
The bank opened as the Bank of Belgrade, but that was changed to North American State Bank in 1905.
Christopher Borgerding “was ahead of his time,” Perry said. In more recent years, many banks have adopted names that are not connected to a specific place.