Eight-year-old Nik Bradigan Ritopecki is a resourceful young Saratogian. During the last few years, Ritopecki saved his birthday money and operated his own small business—a corner lemonade stand where veterans, firemen and police officers drink for free—and managed to amass more than $2000. So, on January 14, with two little silver briefcases filled with cash and rolled coins, the industrious Ritopecki headed to Downtown Saratoga Springs accompanied by his mother, Carly Connors, and grandmother, Laura Bradigan, to open his first-ever savings account at the Adirondack Trust Company on Broadway.
While most of us adults choose banks based on favorable interest rates or how convenient the location is to our place of work, Ritopecki had a much easier time making up his mind about where he wanted to bring his banking business: According to his mom, he’s been more than a little obsessed with the bank’s white marble, Art Deco facade, and that made for a suitable enough deciding factor for him. “He’s always been intrigued with this bank, because he thinks it looks like the White House,” says Bradigan, whose own grandmother opened up a savings account for her at a bank in Albany when she was just eight.
In this age of banking apps, mobile deposits and digital payment options—not to mention the seemingly endless glut of supersized national banks run by branch managers you might never meet—you hear less and less about these types of coming-of-age moments. And Ritopecki’s didn’t come without some welcome pomp and circumstance, which arguably, only a community bank could offer, to add some formality to the occasion: The bank’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Charles V. Wait, met and spent time with the boy, his mother and grandmother at the bank. That’s something a small community bank like Adirondack Trust Company can afford to do for clients, because, well, it’s relationships, like the bank’s brand-new one with Ritopecki (and his family), that will keep the bank open for generations to come.
Needless to say, the kid’s onto something with his choice. The Adirondack Trust Company was founded in 1901 on the corner of Broadway and Church Street, in the exact spot where the current building stands. It wouldn’t be until 1916, though, that its signature exterior, made out of Vermont marble, and interior, of Italian marble, would be constructed (ditto on adding those giant gold chandeliers and original brass tables for bankers’ deposit slips). And it’s been an integral part of Saratoga for decades longer than most of its local counterparts. “The purpose of this bank is to take the funds from the people in the community and reinvest them in that community,” says Wait, who’s a third-generation banker there and whose son also works there. “We give lots of loans to this community, not necessarily because it’s always really profitable, but because it’s going to matter to this community.” For example, in 1997, with a loan from the Adirondack Trust Company, Kathleen and Noel Smith were able to open the Saratoga Arms, turning what was a dilapidated building in the heart of Downtown Saratoga into a profitable and unique hotel.
But the bank’s bread and butter isn’t just in helping to revitalize the community’s businesses; the Adirondack Trust Company also invests in the community by giving out more than half a million dollars a year to local nonprofits in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties. The bank has even developed its own Adirondack Trust Company Community Fund (ATCCF) in 2009, along with an annual “Autumn of Giving” campaign every October, during which money is raised by the community and is matched by the bank. The funds go towards local nonprofits. The bank also invests in its own employees, providing each of them with shares in the bank. And many of them reinvest their funds (and/or time) in the community, too. “We once put a chart on the wall, and we had more than 100 employees who were actively involved in a board of some sort,” says Stephan R. von Schenk, President and CEO of Adirondack Trust Company. “That includes everything from the local little league to Saratoga Hospital and all the way up to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, where Charles [Wait] served on the board for many years.”
That sense of commitment to the community brings us full circle back to young Ritopecki, who not only successfully opened that first savings account, but also got a tour of the Adirondack Trust Company by Wait and von Schenk. For nearly half an hour, the eight year old got to explore the bank’s lodge-style boardroom, its 118-year-old vault that’s still in use today and even Wait’s office. Given all the important lessons learned and the incredibly warm reception Ritopecki received, would it surprise you to learn that he’s already considering a future in banking?