St. Louis Community Credit Union Preserves the Gateway Bank Legacy with its New Branch
St. Louis, Missouri, February 29, 2016 – St. Louis Community Credit Union is continuing the legacy of the former Gateway Bank in North St. Louis city by bringing low-cost banking options back to the area. The organization announced that it will open a new location on Gateway’s original site called the St. Louis Community Credit Union Gateway Branch. Government officials and community partners helped celebrate this move in a historic ribbon cutting ceremony today.
“It makes me feel very good that after all of these years, Gateway Bank is finally getting the recognition that the founding members of the bank deserve,” said Melvyn Harrington, one of Gateway Bank’s original founders. “I think it’s great that St. Louis Community Credit Union is picking up the torch and continuing to serve the community.”
Established in 1965, Gateway Bank was the first and only minority-owned commercial bank in Missouri. It took local deposits and made loans in a neighborhood where few other banks focused. In 2009, Gateway Bank was acquired by Central Bank of Kansas City, which operated on the site for three years. In 2012, that institution announced that it was leaving the area. During that time, St. Louis was the third highest underbanked African-American community in the U.S. according to the FDIC.
Losing this community resource would have left a huge void for North St. Louis city residents. The potential closing of Gateway Bank would have perpetuated an already disappointing trend of reduced access to banking services for the neighborhood.
The St. Louis City NAACP was determined to find a solution to save Gateway Bank. As a partner of the Credit Union, the NAACP was familiar with St. Louis Community’s ability to provide access and financial capability to financially underserved communities. St. Louis City NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt reached out to Stifel Bank & Trust to discuss a plan. Together, the two parties connected Central Bank of Kansas City with St. Louis Community to work out an agreement that allowed the sale of the property to the Credit Union.
St. Louis Community’s commitment to honoring Gateway Bank did not end there. The Credit Union provided a means for Gateway’s customers to open accounts and even hired a few employees from Gateway to work at some of its locations.
Furthermore, St. Louis City NAACP leadership helped point St. Louis Community Credit Union in the right direction to procure a Community Development Block Grant that facilitated completion of the project. The original Gateway Bank building was demolished in 2015. Thanks to additional funding from the Community Development Block Grant, as well as support from the City of St. Louis, Stifel Bank & Trust, the St. Louis City NAACP, TIAA Direct* and others, St. Louis Community Credit Union was able to build a new state-of-the art facility while still preserving Gateway Bank’s great heritage. The Credit Union worked closely with ICS Construction Services, LTD and Grice Group Architects to revitalize the structure.
The St. Louis Community Credit Union Gateway Branch is adorned with a gallery of vintage photographs that pay tribute to Gateway and its founders.
“As part of our giveback, it was very important to us to preserve the outstanding history of Gateway Bank and everything that it stood for,” said Patrick Adams, CEO, St. Louis Community Credit Union. “Our new Gateway branch symbolizes a continued financial services legacy for an area that needs us. We look forward to serving the North St. Louis city community for many years to come.”
Gateway Bank and St. Louis Community Credit Union both share a passion to uplift the financially underserved. In fact, several of Gateway’s traditions still live on today through the new Credit Union branch:
- Affordable loans and account services
- Expanded full-service drive-up lanes for ultimate on-the-go convenience
- A caring staff that comes from the communities it serves
- Free financial counseling
Back in the 1960s, technology was a critical component of Gateway Bank’s service. St. Louis Community Credit Union will also be offering advanced technology through Interactive Teller Solution access – a fast and easy way to bank. The ITS technology was funded by TIAA Direct.“TIAA Direct is committed to serving those who serve others, and St. Louis Community Credit Union is providing a great service to our home city and the residents of this community with the Gateway branch,” said Rick Calero, CEO, TIAA Direct. “We are investing in new technology, funding and services that will help St. Louis Community Credit Union offer economic opportunities and financial solutions that the community can use to grow and develop further.”
Gateway Bank was founded based on need. At the time, there weren’t any financial institutions that served African Americans. Without equal banking access, African Americans could not get loans to buy homes or start businesses, nor would white-owned banks hire blacks for white-collar professional positions.
George Montgomery was one of the key individuals to lead the Gateway effort. Montgomery was a native St. Louisan and earned a degree in commerce from Saint Louis University in 1955. He later went on to study real estate at Washington University. Montgomery met with his colleagues every Sunday at his home. The group dubbed itself the St. Louis Bank Development Association and was “driven” by the need for a black-owned bank in St. Louis.
A large percentage of Gateway’s founders and board members held higher degrees – several were medical doctors; one was a dentist; others had backgrounds in business, real estate and/or finance. Most of them attended the city’s two local African-American high schools at the time, Vashon and Sumner.
In March 1964, George Montgomery, Leo Bohanon (Associate Executive Director, National Urban League President) and Melvyn Harrington (Contract Coordinator, McDonnell Aircraft Corp.) presented a feasibility study to the regional Chief National Bank Examiner, supporting their case for opening a black-owned bank in St. Louis. On Sunday, June 27, 1965, Gateway Bank held its grand opening celebration. The remodeled building provided walk-up and drive-through banking facilities. A full range of services were offered, including checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, safe deposit boxes, and loans. Gateway went on to operate for 40-plus years. The bank’s founders were committed to the cause.
Colonel Clifton Gates was among the bank’s first investors and an original board member. He went on to serve as chairman. In good times and in bad, Gates stood by the reputation of Gateway Bank, working diligently to grow the bank’s success.
“I am honored to be a part of the rebirth of Gateway National Bank,” said Lisa Gates, daughter of Colonel Clifton Gates. “On behalf of my late father, and all of the other founders, directors and customers of Gateway, we are grateful to St. Louis Community Credit Union for making this investment in North St. Louis and thank them for their leadership.”
As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), St. Louis Community Credit Union is a full-service financial institution that primarily serves low-to-moderate-income individuals living in and around the region’s urban areas. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives, owned by their members.
As part of its overall giveback to the community, St. Louis Community Credit Union provides locations in underserved communities, credit building products, second-chance checking accounts, a payday loan alternative and hands-on financial education that helps empower disenfranchised consumers. These service-minded qualities resemble those of the original Gateway Bank.
St. Louis Community Credit Union has 14 branches. Three of those locations are embedded within social service agencies, thus meeting consumers where they are (MET Center – Wellston, Grace Hill – Water Tower and Kingdom House – near downtown).
The St. Louis Community Credit Union Gateway Branch is scheduled to open in March 2016. To learn more about Gateway Bank’s rich history, visit www.gatewayslccu.com.
*TIAA Direct is a trade name of TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB.
This activity is financed in part through an allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the City of St. Louis’ Community Development Administration.