Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bank's Business Strategy: Remember the Ladies

The 1915 Bank of Elk River Building located on
Jackson Street.  Although not visible, a side entrance to
 the bank led to the basement lounge for farm families and ladies

Recent efforts to map the Elk River business district provided some interesting results, not the least of these is the development of a ladies’ lounge in the Bank of Elk River basement.  Researching the lounge, shows the businessmen of Elk River very attuned to early 1900s marketing and customer service ideas.  Their efforts to recruit entire families shows an appreciation for a close-knit community.

Fire destroyed the business district of Elk River in April 1915.  The Bank of Elk River immediately developed plans for a new bank building. With the new construction on Jackson Street, the bank also introduced the idea of providing a “rest room for farmers wives and families.”  The idea being to provide “a place for farmers wives and families a place to rest and visit with one another.” 

The opulence of the new bank set a unique standard of excellence for the Bank of Elk River.  “The walls are a soft cream tint,” the Sherburne County Star news reported.  “the wood work in the beautiful cathedral oak.  The wainscoting and counters are Italian marble.”  The new building clearly intended to impress bank clients and customers. 

The lounge promised to be equally luxurious.  The lounge invited the ladies of Elk River and “every woman in the country” to enjoy the luxury of the rest room, while men conducted their business around town.  Electrical lighting, carpets, and comfortable chairs waited to greet every woman as she entered the space. 

The bank provided additional efforts to separate women from the unsavory aspects of business, providing them a separate entrance to the rest area.  The ladies never set foot in the bank to relax in the luxurious lounge. 

The Elk River fire in 1915 allowed the Bank of Elk River an opportunity to create a new image of themselves.  A financial institution interested in the comfort of the entire family, clearly a new strategy for banking and marketing.

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