Shareholder Story: Karen Hawkinson on behalf of Francis Zeches


Francis (center) pictured with his children and their spouses.

We are proud to be locally owned. At our Annual Shareholder meeting this year, we asked our shareholders how they became part of the Merchants family.

Karen shares her story:

“My story with Merchants Bank is really my dad’s story that has been passed on to me.  It is a story that started a very long time ago.  Since he is no longer here to share it, I will do my best to tell it on his behalf.

A life long businessman in Winona, there were times in building his business that my dad needed loans.  When another Winona bank at which he had always banked did not grant his request, he went to Merchants Bank and there he found willing partners.  It was the beginning of a very long relationship built on trust and mutual respect.  A friendship developed with long ago Bank President Gil Grabow.  After a round of golf in early June 1967, he convinced my father to purchase Merchants stock.  My dad became a ready stockholder and never looked back.  Over the years you could not find a more ardent supporter of the bank or a prouder stockholder.  On two separate occasions, he gifted my husband and me with some of his Merchants stock.  There was always a caveat with that gift –“don’t ever sell this stock without talking to me first”.  Needless to say, we didn’t sell that stock because we understood that its value was much greater than the stated book value.

My dad continued to invest and the bank stock continued to grow, splitting several times over the course of his ownership.  As he neared the end of his life and was carefully planning his trust, he derived great pleasure in knowing he would be passing on stock in such a fine institution to my brother and me.  My dad was a proud Minnesotan, and even prouder member of the Winona community, so it is no surprise that he took it quite personally that the very successful bank in which he had invested, had its origin in his hometown.

My Merchants stock represents so much more than the gift of a wise investment.  While I enthusiastically welcome the growing dividends, it is an investment, that like my dad, I take quite personally. His advice to “never sell that stock”still resonates in my mind.  The bank and its stock –represent all that my dad found important in life –good value, a solid business plan, relationships built on trust and mutual respect and a sense of community pride.  Being a stockholder allows me to still be a part of the community in which I was raised and to share in the continued richness of that environment.”

-Karen Hawkinson, the daughter of Francis Zeches.