Michaletz and Coughlan eventually decided to seek local investors to open a bank on Belgrade Avenue. Several prominent businessmen each invested $2,000, and the Coughlan family took a major stake. Valley National Bank was incorporated for a mere $200,000 in equity. (By contrast, the bank, now owned by Frandsen Bank and Trust, is part of a group of more than three dozen banks with nearly $200 million in equity as well as $1.5 billion in assets.)
The bank opened for business on August first, 1963.
North Mankato didn’t have much of a business district at the time — several bars, Mutch hardware, a bowling alley, a barbershop, Brennan’s gas station at Belgrade and Range, and of course, the old Marigold Dairy complex at the east end of Belgrade. Now they had added a bank, tiny though it was.
With a number of major, well-established banks across the river, the question was obvious: how would that new bank in a trailer attract clients? Then-bank-President, John N. Maiers, offered a solution: “Ask [people you know] what interest rate they’re paying for their car loan, for their mortgage. Then, if you lower your interest rate by one-half percent,” Maiers said, “you’ll get customers!”
In May of 1964, Valley National moved east, just across the parking lot into a portion of a big two-story building built of Coughlan stone. The bank remains there to this day. An artist’s rendering in an ad for the grand opening even shows, they now had one of those new-fangled drive-by tellers. A Free Press ad for the grand opening calls it “Minnesota’s newest and growingest bank,” adding that they would be giving away eight $30 GE radios as door prizes!
By 1966, the bank was successful enough that they needed new capital. A group of new investor/directors was added that included a young man who had just become president of Carlson Craft, Glen Taylor.