by John Beaudoin

“The Old Reliable” ““ as they always called the Bank of Lee’s Summit ““ has been in business for 150 years.
And while that former Bank of Lee’s Summit ““ now known as Security Bank ““ has changed names, many of the people and personalities inside the building remain the same friendly faces customers have been used to for years and decades.

The traditions of William Colbern and Josiah Hargis are still firmly intact at the bank, one that opened in 1868 and has four locations in Lee’s Summit ““ including the original in downtown, not far from where the first location opened just three years after Lee’s Summit was incorporated.

In the early years the bank was located inside a dry-goods store, where customers would have to wade through rows of fabric, food and clothing to reach the tellers. Eventually, the bank would set up shop at what is now Third and
SW Main, on the main floor of the iconic Commercial Hotel ““ a building that still bears its name.

Later on, the bank would land at 210 SW Main Street, a location it still holds proudly today. And while the names have changed (and this isn’t the first time, as the bank name differed several times from inception until 1884) many long-time employees say the service has not.

Laura Wheat, a vice president/regional manager at the downtown Lee’s Summit location, is one of them. With more than 20 years at the bank, starting as a part-time teller and working through all the departments, she said the “The Old Reliable” mantra can stand based on the men and women that work at the oldest business in Lee’s Summit.

“We have great people here and the people didn’t change,” she said. The changes that have occurred over the decades were a product of rapid growth, both in the bank and with the population of Lee’s Summit. In 1958, the current building in downtown Lee’s Summit was erected and a drive-through was added in the 1970s.

The second location was built on Third Street and Ward Road in 1983. In 1996, the Bank of Lee’s Summit expanded to a third location off 291; then a fourth location was added on 150 Highway in 2003. Jack and Bob Hoke, the engineers and architects of the new 291 and Third Street locations, were also the bank owners up until 2000 when Valley View Financial Group acquired them.

The Hoke family had a long tradition with the Bank of Lee’s Summit, too. Jack and Bob’s father, Jake Hoke, worked for the bank, and his father, Ben, purchased shares of the bank back in the Great Depression.

Even with the growth ““ the four Lee’s Summit branches boast 20,000 accounts with more than $250 million in deposits ““ Wheat said the bank has never lost way with its roots, right in the heart of Lee’s Summit.

“The downtown area is our roots,” she said. “It’s what has made us so successful. In 2006, we had a big decision to make with a remodel or to find another location. It was a little more expensive to remodel but it was worth it to stay in this area.”

Wheat grew up in the banking world, starting as a part-time teller. Within a week, she moved into the retail area opening new accounts. “I was advancing so quickly, it was exciting and I was learning a lot,” she recalls. “The people here were family, and so I stayed, and here I am 20-something years later.

“It was nice to grow up in the bank. I think that’s something we don’t often get now and have those opportunities where you can work in every single department. Now, we are so automated, the computer does that work for you. Not many people will have that opportunity that I had.”

In all, Security Bank employs 80 at its four locations. And as Wheat points out, those 80 are every bit of an investment as the buildings. “We’re invested in Lee’s Summit. And even more so now. We have to work even harder now,” she said. “We are more invested in our community and our customers. We can’t rely on being “˜The Old Reliable.’ The new generation of customers don’t just assume that we are the place to bank. We have committed resources specifically to Lee’s Summit, to
reaching new customers.”

From humble roots of 300 customers in a town of 500, to the bank that boasts the most impressive longevity in Lee’s Summit, that’s something name changes cannot remove.