By Eric Jankiewicz
Ridgewood Savings Bank celebrated the 75th anniversary of its historic Forest Hills branch on Queens Boulevard recently with a ceremony that had borough politicians in attendance.
“I’m honored and proud to stand here in front of the bank today,” Walter Reese, senior vice president of operations at Ridgewood, said. “There has been so much change in New York City and Queens over the last 75 years, but not only has our building remained the same, our service hasn’t changed either.”
The bank has roots that go back to the 1920s, when 14 Ridgewood residents created a mutual savings bank. The bank’s first headquarters was a converted taproom located at the intersection of Myrtle and Forest avenues.
About 20 years later, just after the country began its recovery from the Great Depression, the bank opened a second location in Forest Hills, where the celebrated structure still stands.
“We are proud to carry on a 90-year tradition of providing strength, stability and service to the community,” Reese said. “We demonstrate this commitment through one-on-one banking relationships, as well as dedicated involvement in charitable organizations and civic endeavors.”
The inside of the Forest Hills branch is adorned with many retro fixtures, including the lit teller signs. And instead of the bullet-proof glass used at most banks, bars protect the tellers.
The bank is now more than 90 years old and it has 35 locations across New York City, Long Island and Westchester.
“It is gratifying that this institution has remained true to its founding principles,” said CEO Peter Boger. “Back in 1920, a group of 14 local businessmen and residents got together with the idea of forming a new mutual savings institution with no stockholders to serve local residents in the communities they live and work. Thirty-five branches later, we are doing just that.”
They also have a mobile bank truck that drives around the New York City area. With all of its branches, Ridgewood Savings Bank is the largest mutual savings bank in New York City and one of the oldest. Along with the Forest Hills location, the first bank in Ridgewood still operates at the original location.
The bank is a conventional mutual savings bank, so the company doesn’t have shareholders. Instead it is run by a board of trustees. Historically, the bank has relied on personal accounts, but in recent years the board has pushed to increase the number of business accounts.
“We have long believed our ability to sustain and grow our bank over 90 years – through so many economic changes – is attributed to our unwavering focus on customers, local communities and employees,” William McGarry, Ridgewood Savings Bank’s former chairman and CEO, said. “While so much has changed since we first opened, our commitment to our customers has remained steadfast, and they have always been extremely loyal in return.”
Reach reporter Eric Jankiewicz by e-mail at ejank