Merchants to buy branch that foiled outlaw

Winona, Minn.-based Merchants Bank, which has a location in Eau Claire at 2728 Mall Drive, is buying a Minnesota community bank that has the distinction of foiling an attempted robbery by 19th century outlaw Jesse James.

Parent company Merchants Financial Group announced last week that it is in a definitive agreement to buy the First National Bank of Northfield (Minn.).

The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, but the deal is expected to close before the end of 2019, according to a news release announcing the deal.

The Northfield bank is known to have defeated James’ gang in an attempted robbery in 1876. The robbers were foiled by the bank’s use of a time lock on its safe, making it impossible for employees to open it during the hold-up, according to information on First National’s website. The gang then fatally shot a bank cashier. Though James and others in his gang fled to safety, two outlaws were killed in an ensuing gun battle with Northfield citizens and an innocent bystander later died of a gunshot wound.

The original building where the attempted robbery happened in 1876 is now occupied by the Northfield Historical Society. The bank moved to another nearby building in the city’s downtown and later opened a second location.

Presto’s appliance sales rise in Q1

Retailers stocked up on Presto kitchen small appliances at the start of this year, pushing sales higher for the housewares division of the Eau Claire-based company.

National Presto Industries reported Friday that net sales were $3.7 million higher — a 22.7% increase — for its housewares/small appliance segment in the quarter that ended March 31 when compared to the first three months of 2018.

“In contrast to the prior year, major customers did not start the new year with heavy inventory carryover. Instead, they needed to replenish their stocks,” company president Maryjo Cohen said in a news release.

Gains in the consumer kitchen products were offset though by a $16.6 million decline in net shipments for the company’s defense-sector products. That 27.4% decrease when compared to the start of last year was attributed largely to shipment timing.

Overall, the company reported $5.95 million in net earnings in the recent quarter compared to $10.99 million a year ago.

Winter, merger costs crimp CCF’s profit

The parent company of Altoona-based Citizens Community Federal Bank posted a smaller profit for the first quarter of this year, due in part to merger-related costs and a seasonal slowdown.

Citizens Community Bancorp reported $953,000 in net income for the three months that ended on March 31 — about a 24% drop from the profit posted in the previous quarter.

Some of the decline had to do with the quarter having fewer days with the prior one and seeing a typical slowdown due to winter weather.

“Despite a harsh winter, our pipeline for new loans is healthy,” Stephen Bianchi, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, said in a news release.

The company’s portfolio of commercial, agricultural and consumer loans grew by $41 million during the recent quarter.

“We are seeing better community recognition of our brand while our efforts to better staff branches, train our team and leverage our name through acquisitions are beginning to pay dividends with solid organic loan and deposit growth,” Bianchi said.

The bank wrapped up a computer data conversion earlier this year that was tied to its 2018 acquisition of United Bank. CCF also is in the process of acquiring Tomah-based Farmers & Merchants Bank, a merger that is expected to close this summer.

Companies lauded by Focus on Energy

A Menomonie brewery and two large businesses with locations in the Chippewa Valley were among those recognized last week with Energy Efficiency Excellence Awards presented by Focus on Energy.

• Brewery Nonic, a craft brewery that opened early this year, won its award for installing energy efficient projects including a high-efficiency boiler and air conditioning system while renovating its building, which used to be a railroad depot.

• Fleet Farm’s Eau Claire retail store and Chippewa Falls distribution center both used Focus on Energy incentives to install energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems as part of their construction in the past few years. Those contributed to Fleet Farm winning the award for its projects throughout the state.

• Neenah-based Miron Construction, which has an Eau Claire office, won its award for educating and incentivizing clients on making energy-efficient decisions for their renovation and new construction projects.

Focus on Energy is Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program, which is funded by utility companies and cooperatives.

County Bancorp sees solid start to year

A Maintowoc-based bank that has a loan office in Eau Claire reported rising profits to start 2019.

County Bancorp, parent company of Investors Community Bank, had $3.8 million in net income for the first three months of this year, up from $2.8 million in the preceding quarter.

“We are very pleased that we continue to produce solid quarterly earnings, even with the challenges in the dairy sector,” company president and bank CEO Tim Schneider said in a news release.

One of the bank’s niche financial services is providing agriculture business loans with a main focus on dairy farms.

From staff reports