Chartered in 1948 with $25,000 in capital and 250 shares, Bulloch County-based Farmers & Merchants Bank now sits solidly as Statesboro's third largest bank with deposits of more than $188 million.
Even though the bank's main office was moved from Brooklet to Statesboro in 1990, Farmers & Merchants has retained its independence staying true to its mission of remaining a community bank.
"There are only two locally owned community banks in Bulloch County today," said Ricky Nessmith, Farmers & Merchants' president and CEO. "One is relatively new and then there is Farmers & Merchants Bank, just as committed today to a long term future as we have been for the past 60 years as a locally owned community bank."
Farmers & Merchants takes its role as a community bank very seriously encouraging its employees to help and participate in their community as much as they possibly can.
"The greatest thing about working here is that you are encouraged and expected to do good works," said Trish Tootle, an assistant vice president for the bank. "Whether those good works result in additional business for the bank or not really doesn't matter. We have done what we were supposed to do, and that is all that matters."
Tootle said the bank's board of directors is just as involved with community outreach as the employees themselves.
"One of the things that continues to amaze me is the number of calls that I get from our directors regarding a need in the community," she said. "If one of them or our president hears of a need, they will call me to see how we can help. Whether the need involves a client or not is a non issue. In their minds a need is a need, and we have a responsibility to help those in our community whenever and however we can."
Farmers & Merchants commitment to its community harkens back to the "old" days of banking according to Charles Haney, III, president and ceo of the Bank of Madison in Madison, Georgia.
"Farmers & Merchants is representative of the old community bank that all of us grew up doing business with," Haney said. "They still do business like it was done 20 years ago, and I attribute that to them remaining independent. Remaining independent is what their customers wanted, and it has served them well."
According to John Martin, manager of Farmers Home Furniture in Statesboro and a long time customer of the bank, Farmers & Merchants seeks to serve all regardless of personal circumstance.
"Ricky Nessmith's door is open all of the time," Martin said. "Whether you are worth a million dollars or nothing, you are the same to him. A customer of mine who is also a customer of Farmers & Merchants told me even though he didn't have a thing, Ricky has always helped him when he needed it."
"No matter how well they have done, the folks that work at Farmers & Merchants haven't forgotten where they came from," Martin said. "You are important to them no matter what."
Cecile Boulineau, office manager of Bulloch Telephone, is equally impressed with Farmers & Merchants culture of caring and commitment to customer service.
"We have banked with Farmers & Merchants for over 20 years," Boulineau said. "Even though we are a fairly large client, I don't think we are treated any differently or better than their smaller customers. They earn their customers and take care of their people. I cannot say enough good things about them, I really can't."
With over 12,000 customers to service, Farmers & Merchants has maintained its family atmosphere inside and out of the bank.
"I have worked here for nearly 20 years, and I could not imagine working anywhere else," said Geraldine Tremble who is in charge of the bank's customer service representatives. "We are like a big family. We care about each other that much, about our customers, and our community. Truly, in my heart, I know this is where I need to be."
Nessmith said moving the bank's headquarters to Statesboro almost 20 years ago allowed the bank to continue to grow.
"I think in retrospect, most everyone feels the move to Statesboro proved to be the right one," Nessmith said. "We are looking for opportunities to expand and return additional value to our shareholders, and that growth could come from outside of Bulloch County. However, our mission is to remain a community bank."