Municipal Bank will be celebrating 50 years as a community banking institution this weekend at its Bourbonnais location.

Cathy Boicken, bank president, said it’s more than just a milestone.

“It started with a handshake in Momence, Illinois, 50 years ago,” she said. “You don’t hear of banking stories like that very often.”

Merlin Karlock, local businessman, philanthropist and community leader, started Municipal Bank with that handshake and charter in 1971, and the rest is history.

“One day he decided they needed another bank in Momence, met with a couple farmers and business people in Momence, and the next day drove to Springfield and got a charter,” Boicken said. “He started the bank in a church. He said, ‘God saved here. We all should save here, too.’”

Municipal Bank grew rapidly from the address at 228 N. Dixie Highway in Momence, and it opened a branch in Bourbonnais in 1980 and expanded to Manteno in 1994.

Boicken said local people and local decisions have been the keys to the bank’s success. It now has assets totaling just under $350 million.

“We’ve always made quick loan decisions,” she said. “We’re very responsive. We answer the phone still, you don’t go to voicemail. We just always believe in supporting the community, and the community has been very receptive in supporting us.”

Municipal Bank will be holding a Customer Appreciation Day from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday at its Bourbonnais location at 720 Main Street NW. There will be live music, face painting, magic shows for the children, food, non-alcoholic drinks, and an ice cream truck. It’s all free.

Boicken said it’s important to give back to the community it serves because the bank is part of the community.

“Our staff is like family,” she said. “A lot of them has been here for over 30 years. Our customers are like family, a lot of them have been here since we opened in 1971. I started on the ground floor as a secretary and have done a little bit of everything. But it’s really nice to help people reach their dream of homeownership — whether it’s owning a home or buying an investment piece of property and looking forward to retiring on that new business venture. It’s very rewarding to be able to help local people make those things happen. I’ve got a great staff.”

Municipal Bank employs 53 full-time employees among its three locations.

In addition to its business and personal checking accounts, savings accounts, the bank has a wide range of lending services, including mortgages. It also handles land trusts.

“During COVID, we were one of the leaders with local small businesses with the PPP [Payroll Protection Program] loans,” Boicken said. “We do home equities, we do car loans. We are pretty full service. Right now, we’re one of the leaders in the investment properties world. So we do investment properties multifamily, commercial loans.

“... We work hard to provide excellent customer service. We try to be responsive, quick decisions. And I think our growth, shows that we’ve become very good at that.”

Associate Editor

Chris Breach is the Associate Editor of The Daily Journal and the editor of the business section. A graduate of Indiana University, Breach has more than 25 years experience in newspapers. He can be reached at cbreach@daily-journal.com.