On July 29, 1956, Central Bank of the Ozarks opened its doors as Empire Bank on the outskirts of Springfield at the corner of Sunshine Street and Glenstone Avenue. The grand opening held that day would mark the beginning of a 55+ year relationship with our customers throughout the Ozarks.
Empire began as the vision of a handful of local merchants and entrepreneurs who collectively put their money to work for themselves and the community. At the time, there were only four banks in Springfield, with no banks located in the southeast section of the city. Ramey’s Supermarket, Evans Drugs and the Tower Theatre were among the businesses on the Plaza. According to Floyd Tucker, who was employed by Empire Bank for 50 years, “Everybody knew everybody. We knew most of the business community and would greet each customer as they came in as if they were longtime friends.”
In 1959, we became the first Springfield area bank to offer extended hours of service, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The following year, the bank began opening on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. We were also one of the first banks in Springfield to install an “instant cash machine” in the mid 1960’s. Customers could have access to cash when the bank was closed. This cash machine was the predecessor to the modern day ATM.
In the late 1960’s, we moved into the computer age. At that time, the Burroughs 2500 electronic data processing system that was purchased was the largest data processor in Southwest Missouri, occupying 2,000 square feet of the lower level of the main bank facility. The computer was used to compound daily interest on savings in seconds and to process industrial customers’ payrolls in minutes. We also used this machine to process work for other area businesses and banking institutions. The computer played a role in local elections for “immediate election returns” and “on-the-spot forecasts” on election night. This process of computerized election forecasting was a first for the Ozarks.
In 1970, we were the first bank in the region to offer 48-month auto financing, beginning with new 1971 models. 1970 also marked a milestone with the construction of the newly expanded main facilities at Glenstone and Sunshine at a cost of $1.2 million. The main bank building was the first multi-story building in the Plaza Shopping Center with approximately 33,000 square feet of space.
In 1980, Central Bancompany purchased Empire Bank and Mike Williamson was named President and CEO. Mike led the bank for over 25 years while serving actively in the community. In April 2006, Russ Marquart was named President and Williamson continues as Chairman of the Board.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, as bank regulations changed, we added several additional financial services to better serve its customers. Central Investment Advisors and Central Trust Company were established to expand our capabilities. Several area banks were also acquired to further expand our services throughout the Ozarks. Nixa Bank, Pleasant Hope Bank, and Webster County Bank were welcome additions to the family. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the bank also opened additional branches in Springfield on Medical Mile, North Kansas Expressway, Chesterfield Village, in Hammons Tower and in Ozark.
In 2008, we merged with The Greene County Bank, and expanded services to Battlefield and North Springfield. That year we also opened our 17th banking facility in Republic, Missouri.
In 2010, we merged with Citizens National Bank and acquired four new facilities. We now offer 21 banking centers and over 40 ATM's to better serve our customers.
In 2015, we changed our name from Empire Bank to Central Bank of the Ozarks. The update to our name strengthens the connection and services to other local banks in the Central Bank family. This uniformity reflects our ongoing commitment to technology and convenience for our customers.
But through it all, we have been able to stay focused on our original mission – to provide the financial services and solutions of a “big” bank with the local decision-making of a community bank.
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