In 1865, Bardstown, KY was rich in tradition. Its main streets were lined with homes of classic proportions and architectural styles. Many of them are still occupied today. The distilling of whiskey had long taken part in Nelson County due to its abundance of limestone spring water, but it was also notable as a very vibrant commercial town where nail and cotton factories, spinning mills and tanneries flourished.
The enactment of the National Banking Act of 1863 and the end of the Civil War gave the opportunity for two merchants, Richard D. Shipp and Jeremiah Wilson, to obtain a charter to open the first bank in Nelson County. In February of 1868, ownership interest in the bank was transferred to Bardstown attorney Jasper W. Muir and businessman William Wilson. In 1890, the firm became the Banking House of Wilson & Muir. On Friday, Dec. 18, Wilson and Muir marked its 150th year in banking.
“The 150th anniversary is a landmark achievement” said Frank B. Wilson, President and CEO of Wilson & Muir. “It’s something we are very proud of, and it is a cause for celebration, not just about our past but because we are very excited about the future of our bank as well. We’re very proud to be the third oldest bank in Kentucky, but we are more proud of the confidence that our clients have shown in us over the years. “
Wilson & Muir has experienced a great deal of growth over the past 150 years. Now over $450 million is assets, the bank has 10 branches throughout Nelson, Grayson, Hardin and Jefferson Counties and employs over 130 individuals, many of whom have been with the bank for over 40 years.
“All banks have the same products and services” said Davis Huston, SVP. “What distinguishes Wilson & Muir from the others is our commitment to customer service.”
Max Shapira, President and CEO of Heaven Hill Brands and member of the Wilson & Muir Board of Directors, agrees.
“It’s pretty simple” he said, “it’s a philosophy of business, a philosophy of operations, but most importantly, it’s a philosophy of how you treat your customers. And, not only do you know your customers better, you are able to give them more rapid response to what they require.”
It’s this philosophy that has built the bank’s success for the past 150 years. That and diversification of its client base.
In the Grayson County locations of Leitchfield and Big Clifty, focus serves a largely rural and agricultural market. In Hardin County, offices in Elizabethtown and Vine Grove focus on a mix of residential, commercial and retail clients. In Jefferson County, the St. Matthews Office serves residential, retail and professional customers. And in Nelson County, offices in Bardstown and Bloomfield serve individuals and locally owned independent businesses as well as large corporations such as the booming bourbon industry.
“Not only does the diversity among our markets mitigate our risks from a business standpoint” said Wilson, “it makes banking more exciting for our people as they get to work with different clients.”
The bank has sustained a multitude of economic challenges throughout the years. But the bank has survived World Wars, The Great Depression and periods of market volatility by staying true to the same conservative business principles that the bank was founded upon.
Wilson also attributes the bank’s success to the leadership of its Board of Directors.
“They are successful business people in their own right,” Wilson said. “Their guidance and direction keeps us focused and accountable to those principles.”
Wilson & Muir is poised to take this success into the future. In addition to traditional banking products such as deposits and loans, the bank offers a full range of online banking products to meet the convenience needs of its clients. The bank is taking this further in its marketing endeavors as its Facebook page was launched earlier this year.
Wilson said, “Social media has given us a way to deepen our client relationships. They see us as partners in building communities together, and social media gives us the opportunity to share and highlight common community interests. And they love reading about our employees just like they are extended family.”
The bank’s clients have been celebrating with WMB throughout the year and a traveling display of memorabilia dating back to the 1860’s has made its way around the branch network. On Friday, Dec. 18, clients were invited to celebrate at the Main Office in Bardstown with cake and refreshments as the bank marked its official 150th birthday and began the next chapter.