IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE 3

Valley Republic Bank Invests in Bakersfield

“It’s A Wonderful Life,” the great 1946 Frank Capra Christmas movie, features protagonist George Bailey who presides over his family’s small-town community bank, Bailey Building and Loan. The bank’s primary business was mortgages, neighbors investing in neighbors. The narrative revolves around a series of misfortunes resulting in despair and finally, redemption and in a way, a morality tale of banking. In the end, good triumphs over evil, generosity over greed and love over malice.

Valley Republic Bank

Though “It’s a Wonderful Life was made more than 70 years ago, some of those old time values still exist here in Bakersfield. Neighbors are still investing in neighbors.
The idea came to Bruce Jay for a new bank because he felt the Bakersfield community was underserved. He assembled a powerhouse of local leaders to serve on the board of directors and, together with an executive team, they set about to form Valley Republic Bank. They filed the application and raised the necessary capital, despite the fact that the financial industry was beginning to collapse. In the midst of the calamity, Bruce and team forged ahead. They believed in the dream of creating a personal bank based on relationships with their neighbors and investing in the community The FDIC approved the application in 2008 and Valley Republic opened the doors in February 2009. Like George Bailey, the VRB team was facing a situation where the public had lost confidence in the banking industry and the stock market was in shambles. And yet, in just a little more than eight years, Valley Republic Bank’s total assets have grown to earn a coveted spot in the top 20 percent of all U.S. banks.

“Our exceptional success is a tribute to this community that is home to all of us,” Bruce says. “We are intentionally ‘uncommon’ about servicing our customers and investing in the community. In our town, relationships matter.”

A Sweet Success

The Dewar’s Candy Shop has been a Bakersfield tradition since 1909 and consistently run by the same family. 
James H. Dewar’s great-grandchildren, Heather and Michael, now run the business with dad, George, overseeing production. With a loyal following, business was great, and Heather and Michael saw the need to build a new store. They knew a lot about candy and ice cream but borrowing money and the construction process, left them bewildered, to say the least. Phil McLaughlin, one of VRB’s handpicked team, was well-acquainted with the Dewar family; he’d known them for years. When the candy shop needed a new store, Phil was there to guide the way.

The financing seemed complicated, as part of it was sourced from the Small Business Association and the balance from Valley Republic. Then, there was the construction to worry about. Timing was essential. Valley Republic guaranteed the loans so the construction could proceed before the SBA funds were actually available. The Riverlakes location closed the day after Christmas and they opened the new store at 2700 Calloway Drive one week later. 

“The bank held our hand and offered complete support,” Heather says. “How often does the president of a bank sit down and talk to you? It was an amazing process!”

Growing Pains

Valley Republic financed a construction loan for Jeff and Carla Smith so that they could build their home in Seven Oaks. 
Their business, JS Ag Packaging, was banking with a large national institution at the time. The business predominately services table grape growers in the valley and was initially operating out of their garage. Jeff and Carla carved out a niche and provide packaging for companies as far away as Chile. JS packaging was steadily growing by leaps and bounds and is, in fact, a leader in the industry. After several locations, Jeff and Carla knew they needed a larger facility. They approached the large bank that was handling the business and were dumbfounded by the red tape and roadblocks.

“We are loyal people, we didn’t really want to jump ship, but they gave us no choice,” Jeff says.

Jeff and Carla had their eye on a 25-acre parcel of land that had formerly been an almond orchard. They approached Valley Republic and worked with Phil McLaughlin and Pritesh Patel. The Smiths’ personal business philosophy seemed to dovetail perfectly with that of Valley Republic Bank. Service, service, service. They were able to buy the land and build a new 75,000-square-foot facility. The construction process went smoothly and without a hitch.

“The service was excellent,” Jeff says. “It’s the best business decision we’ve ever made!”

Practice Made Perfect

Dr. Kurt Sturz is a Bakersfield boy through and through. 
He and his business partner, Dr. Chad Abby, were roommates while Sturz was doing his residency in Loma Linda. Sturz returned to Bakersfield and hung out his shingle initially in a solo practice. He eventually lured his friend Chad to Bakersfield and opened a dental practice specializing in pediatric dentistry. The practice grew and grew and the doctors knew they needed to expand to accommodate their increased patient load. The doctors also started down the financing road with a big bank. They became frustrated with the requirements, intense scrutiny and endless paperwork. They take their financial responsibility seriously and were not interested in variable rate loans with millions of caveats. They wanted to do business with someone who knew them and would offer them a simple financial product that they could count on, as predictable responsibility.

They turned to Valley Republic. Sturz was comfortable with the same hometown values that he holds dear. The bank was quick and responsive. The doctors were able to build out a top-of-the-line space located at 9860 Brimhall Road with the latest technology and equipment. They are taking on additional doctors that will total five in number as well as more staff.

Sturz says his experience with Valley Republic was “ First class. They made me feel special.”

George Bailey’s guardian angel, Clarence says, “Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Lucky for Bakersfield, the vision for Valley Republic Bank became a reality. It has had a profound effect and touched the people of this city. And, for many of the bank’s clients, … it is a wonderful life.