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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2007

Marblehead bank aims to stay small

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
The bank's assets have grown by double digits, rising to $31.4 million at the end of 2006. The bank's assets have grown by double digits, rising to $31.4 million at the end of 2006.
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MARBLEHEAD, Ohio - A hundred years ago today, the Marblehead Bank got a charter from the state of Ohio after a group of residents - tired of having to travel by horseback or buggy to banks in Port Clinton and Sandusky - raised $25,000 to start their own institution.

The bank, which has remained steadfastly independent in this Ottawa County village of 760, has an open house this evening for its 2,000 customers. Its officers will seal a time capsule inside its vault.

President David King said the collection of memorabilia will be opened in 25 years. It includes historic photos of the bank, deposit bags used over the last century, school yearbooks, area police and firemen's patches, a compact disc of the bank's history, menus from the town's restaurants, and some locally made products.

Modern drive-up banking at Marblehead bank. Modern drive-up banking at Marblehead bank.
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The bank's main office is starting its second century only a few hundred feet from its site for its first 50 years, which is now a hardware store.

"We have no immediate plans for expansion outside of our market," Mr. King said. Perhaps even more important for its customers and shareholders, the mission "is to remain an independent community bank," said Vice President William Tuttamore. It has no intention of entertaining a takeover offer,

and the board would not be happy to receive one, he said.

"The bank is just a wonderful resident," said Mayor Jacqueline Bird, It helped the village finance a $325,000 fire truck last year.

The mayor owns stock inherited from her father, longtime Marblehead mayor who was a bank director for two decades. "I hope they will have another 100-plus years," she said.

She is among the fewer than 50 holders of the bank's 30,000 shares. Mr. Tuttamore said the bank has increased its dividend annually for 34 straight years.

Deane Osborne, a customer of the little bank since he moved to Marblehead from Cincinnati 14 years ago, said, "Sometimes little is better." The bank does a good job, said the vice president and general manager of Firelands Abstract & Title Agency in Port Clinton. "I always get a friendly greeting," Mr. Osborne said.

The bank also serves Danbury Township, Lakeside, and Catawba Island, and a number of residents of Kelleys Island.

"One of the reasons we have survived as long as we have is that we design products and services for the Marblehead area, not Columbus or Cleveland," Mr. Tuttamore said.

"We will probably never have the best interest rates nor the most competitive loans, but we pay attention to each and every customer and we will not kill you with fees."

The institution originally served a melting pot of residents, including many European immigrants who worked in the limestone quarries and shipping industry.

Despite being somewhat hemmed in by the Marblehead Peninsula, the bank has had some growth. Its assets have increased by double digits for the last couple of years, to $31.4 million at the end of 2006, and its profit last year was $266,000, up 18 percent from 2005.

The bank's top executives said further growth is possible if they can get more "wallet share" from area residents who bank with other institutions.

Marblehead Bank, with 13 employees, has grown physically, too. It opened its first branch in 1997, followed three years later by a limited-service branch in nearby Otterbein North Shore Retirement Community.

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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