Brian’s Toys Continues to Build

Passion for Toys Leads to Success

BusSpotlightBriansToysENBrian Semling has been all about starting early and following his bliss.

Brian has been a life-long Merchants Bank customer. “I was just four or five days old when my parents opened my first Merchants Bank account,” Semling said. Semling has been with Merchants since then.

As a child, Brian played with “Star Wars” toys. In 1987, that memorabilia was sold at a garage sale. By 1992, Brian started collecting again, and by 1994, Brian opened his own business, “Brian’s Toys,” at the tender age of 16.

The business has grown from selling vintage “Star Wars” toys and collectibles, although it still does that, to selling contemporary “Star Wars” toys, “Transformers,” “Masters of the Universe,” “GI Joe,” “LEGO” construction sets, “Indiana Jones,” “Star Trek” and much, much more. They claim to offer the “world’s largest collection of Star Wars toys and Star Wars collectibles.”

The business has grown from its start in the basement and garage of his parents’ home in Fountain City, Wis., to a more than 8,000 square foot warehouse. The staff has grown to about 20 people, including family members. All sales are done online.

Merchants Bank has helped Brian’s Toys in a number of ways. In addition to providing business loans and lines of credit, Merchants has provided Merchant Processing for credit cards and Deposit on Demand where checks can be remotely scanned and deposited. Recently, Brian added ACH Block and Filters, which can block certain debits and credits from posting to an account, and can allow certain debits and credits from posting to an account while excluding others. Brian also added Positive Pay, which helps to make sure no fraudulent checks are issued on the business account.

“I feel there’s a real understanding of our history,” Semling said of the relationship with Merchants. “We’ve been very happy. If we need to discuss things, we definitely feel that there are real people that we can connect with and be treated fairly.”

Tammy Johnson, a Cash Management expert at Merchants, said that Brian is good to work with because he has an idea of what works best for him and is open to hearing about new products. The ACH Blocks and Filters and Positive Pay are relatively new products, Johnson said.

“He has a wonderful, thriving business,” Johnson said.

Semling said that he also likes the size and feel of a community bank like Merchants.

“There’s value in being able to meet with people face-to-face,” Semling said.

If you have some old “Star Wars” or other discontinued toys from the 1990’s or 2000’s, Brian’s Toys may be interested. “It could be an entire collection, or it may be just a toy or two,” Semling said. More information can be found at the website or email with any toys for sale to buying@brianstoys.com.

For Semling, he still has a number of favorite toys, and it is hard for him to choose just one favorite. He did say one of the most collectible was an Anakin Skywalker from the “Power of the Force” series in its original packaging from 1984.

“I’ll say that Darth Vader is my favorite character, and that the first Darth Vader from 1978 in its original packaging is a favorite toy as well,” Semling said.

Leadership Leads to Opportunity

Tim Murphy sets the pace in Caledonia

Tim MurphyLeadership has led to opportunity in Caledonia as Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) Board Member Tim Murphy’s engagement in the community has opened doors for Merchants Bank.

Murphy, who is on the Caledonia Advisory Board of Directors, as well as the MFGI Board, has taken a leadership role in community projects since 1975. His involvement, along with the involvement of Merchants Bank and the employees of Merchants Bank in Caledonia, has contributed to making Caledonia a better place to live.

Murphy is on the Board of the 4 Seasons Community Center. The community center was built about 10 years ago with $1.2 million raised from community donations. The fundraising for the project was spearheaded by Merchants Bank leadership and Merchants was a significant donor.

“That’s a great accomplishment for a town of 2,700, and one that the town can take pride in achieving,” Murphy said, adding that the facility now runs on donations and rental fees.

Murphy has led the fundraising for a new $1.7 million swimming pool for Caledonia. Murphy wants to make the new pool happen without raising taxes to pay for the project.

At Murphy’s urging, Merchants took a lead in the pool project, pledging the first $25,000. By the end of 2012, the project had reached $1.1 million and Merchants had increased its pledge to $100,000. Murphy pointed out that these donations are in addition to the hours employees and other board members spend volunteering and supporting community organizations.

“The Bank is being recognized for its generosity, and the Bank has a history of community involvement. People see who is taking an interest,” Murphy said, adding that Merchants’ business model of local decision making is good thing for the Bank in Caledonia and the community.

Craig (Caledonia Bank President Craig Schroeder) has a real good understanding of what’s important in this community,” Murphy said.

Murphy has practiced law in Caledonia since becoming an attorney in 1975. A native of Blue Earth, Minn., Murphy said that practicing in a smaller town has had benefits for the Bank as well.

He also knows that you have to pay your dues, work hard and show people that you really care about them. He said that’s especially true in banking.

“I’m a firm believer that you get back what you put into something, and people see Merchants is putting its money and employee volunteer time into the community. That is important to them when they make their banking decisions,” Murphy said.

Merchants Bank Business Gift Card

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Make the gift card process easier for you and your customer

Do you own a business and offer gift certificates? How complicated is it to handwrite all of the information? Would you like an easier way for your business to offer the benefits of a gift card program? Or, do you offer gift cards but the administration of the program is a hassle? Don’t worry, Merchants Bank has thought of a way to make this easier for you with our Business Gift Card program.

What is the Business Gift Card program?

The Merchants Bank Business Gift Card program allows your business to offer gift cards to your customers. With the program, you will be able to tailor the card to your business, with three different programs. Programs available include 100-card, 500-card, and 1,000+ card programs.

Increase the average spending of your customers and the frequency of their visits. Reward your loyal customers and attract new ones with the Merchants Bank Business Gift Card program.

Launch your gift card program in five to seven days and receive toll-free customer support whenever you need it.

For more information on the Merchants Bank Business Gift Card program, please contact Credit Card Department Manager Deb Kemp at (507) 457-1160 or by email at dlkemp@merchantsbank.com. Let Merchants Bank help you start offering gift cards or make your gift card process easier today.

Merchants Bank Business Bankers Complete Training that Promotes Greater Flexibility in Making Loan Decisions

HarrisonCindyWINONA, Minn. – Business bankers throughout the entire Merchants Bank organization completed online training and an intensive three-day workshop designed as a comprehensive analysis process on extending credit to small business borrowers.

“Omega training allows our bankers to better understand the credit needs of small business borrowers and better serve them,” said Senior Vice President and Credit Administration Manager Cindy Harrison.

The Omega Training program teaches bankers to better consider the business and related personal factors that impact creditworthiness and the ability to repay.

“Specifically as it relates to small business, the training helps us to consider other factors than just the balance sheet when it comes to making a loan,” Harrison said. “This makes the loan experience more personal for the customer and the banker, and that’s what community banking is all about.”

Merchants stock is closely held, but is available to the public when shares become available. There are approximately 400 shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin. Merchants also has an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP).

Read about this and other news at Merchants by visiting our website.

Help us welcome the new faces at Merchants Bank

New to MerchantsAt Merchants Bank, we are committed to providing you with the best customer service as possible. We want you to be satisfied with all of your banking needs. To ensure that all of your needs are met, we hired qualified employees to help make the most of your banking experience. Please join us in welcoming the new front-line members of the Merchants Bank team.
Tamara Baker joined the staff at Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove as a Lead Teller. Tamara previously worked at US Bank as a Teller/Banker and at Graphic Design Inc., as a Customer Service/Accounts Payable-Receivable Clerk. Tamara and her fiance reside in Farmington with their 6 children and their St. Bernard, Matileta.
Dawn Garms joined the team at Merchants Bank in Onalaska as a Mortgage Loan Officer. Dawn previously worked at Altra Federal Credit Union as a Mortgage Loan Officer. Dawn grew up in Cedar Falls, IA and attended the University of Northern Iowa where she received her Finance/Real Estate degree. She enjoys hiking the bluffs, kayaking through rivers and all of the great things that the La Crosse area has to offer. She also loves to travel and cook. Loans are subject to credit approval.
Libbie Longfield is a full-time Teller in the Winona Lakeside facility. Libbie graduated from WSU with a major in Marketing and minors in Business Administration and Communication Studies. Libbie previously worked at Menards as an Assistant Cabinets and Appliance Manager. Libbie and her husband have a three-month-old daughter.
Cindy Luedke joined Merchants Bank, Apple Valley team as a Mortgage Lender. Cindy previously worked at 1st Trust Mortgage as a Mortgage Sales Professional. Cindy has been in the mortgage industry for 28 years. Cindy and her husband have been married for 28 years and enjoy fishing and spending time on Big Sandy Lake in McGregor, MN. Loans are subject to credit approval.
Shelly Reining joined the staff at Merchants Bank in Onalaska as a Mortgage Loan Coordinator. Shelly previously worked at Home Federal in Rochester as a Mortgage Loan Officer. Shelly and her husband have been married for eight years and have three children. They enjoy anything outside, watching and playing baseball and football, camping and fishing. In her spare time she loves to read and go for walks. Loans are subject to credit approval.
Tara Selig joined the Merchants Bank team and will work in Rosemount as a part-time Teller. Tara will be a senior at Rosemount High School and previously worked at The Commons on Marice as a Waitress. Tara enjoys hanging out with family and friends, and traveling.
Chris Thrune is a part-time Teller in the Winona Drive-up facility. Chris is a sophomore at WSU with a major in Accounting. He previously worked at Fastenal and Dick’s Marine.
Michael (Mick) Wald joined the Merchants Bank team in Winona as a part-time Teller. Mick recently graduated from Winona State University with his Bachelor of Science in Sociology with specialization in Criminal Justice (Corrections). He previously worked at Fastenal and currently volunteers with the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Minnesota. Mick is an avid hunter and fisher. He enjoys being outside and loves hanging out with his close group of friends.
Visit our website at www.merchantsbank.com for a complete list of locations and hours.