by: Diane Sweeney
Ambler Savings Bank is rooted as firmly in this Montgomery County community as is the Wissahickon Creek which runs alongside the borough. As deeply ingrained as they are, both the creek and the bank have adapted through the years to serve the needs of the people residing in the area.
In the mid-1800’s the Wissahickon Creek and its flowing waters were the driving force for the industrialization of the area 15 miles north of Philadelphia. Flour, timber, paper and cloth mills were built along the banks of the creek named Wiessahitkonk or ‘catfish creek’ by the Lenape Indians. Dams were built and water wheels put in place to generate energy for the mills.
Ambler, known then as the Wissahickon stop on the Northern Pennsylvania Railroad, was growing and thriving. Affordable financing was needed by the laborers to build homes and support the emerging businesses in the town.
In 1874, before the borough of Ambler was even incorporated, Ambler Building and Loan Association was founded. From its inception, the Association’s mission was to support the residents of Ambler, strengthen relationships, and to develop a thriving community.
As industry continued to develop and grow into the 20th century, Ambler Building and Loan Association grew too.
By 1949, they had financed over 2,000 homes.They changed their name in 1955 to Ambler Savings and Loan Association to reflect their expanding mission. And again in 2002 – to Ambler Savings Bank, having by then added an additional branch in Schwenksville.
The original mission for strong relationship with the community is still very much alive today for the board, trustees, and employees of Ambler Savings Bank.
Their mission statement, in part, reads: Ambler Savings Bank is committed to treating our customers like a part of our family and serving our communities by being more than just a bank.
To the leaders in this borough, Ambler Savings Bank and their staff are, without a doubt, more than just a bank. They are the cornerstone of the community.
Ambler Borough’s population is 6,400 and it is less than one square mile in size, but there is nothing small about this community, or Ambler Savings Bank’s support of the people and business who live and work here.
• The bank is the oldest establishment in Ambler.
• Their new corporate office is one of the largest buildings on Butler Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Ambler.
• Ambler Savings Bank is the largest donor to the annual Ambler Arts & Music Festival, which also happens to be one of the largest community events in the county.
Organizers of the Arts & Music Festival would tell you that without Ambler Savings Bank, the festival would never have happened.
Bob King, a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Ambler, (and current Facilities Manager for ASB) was involved in the creation of the music festival in 2012.
Bob tells us, “We (Ambler Main Street, Borough of Ambler, Kiwanis and Rotary) had an art festival going for several years and wanted to bring in a music component. But we needed space for the bands to play and electricity for their equipment. That first year Ambler Savings Bank allowed us to use the parking lot of their former building for the stage. They allowed the musicians access to electricity in their building. When we asked them for financial support – they gave generously. Without their support that first year, music never could have been introduced at the festival.”
A DESTINATION EVENT
The music component lifted the festival from an event local residents might stop in at, to the event of the year for Ambler and surrounding communities. In 2018, 15,000 to 20,000 people attended the day and half long event.
The main street in the borough is closed Friday and Saturday of Father’s Day weekend. There are more than ten band or musical performances, 20 food trucks, and 115 art vendors displaying and selling their crafts.
“Ambler has become a destination thanks to events like this,” shares Jeanne Sorg, Mayor of Ambler. “Showcasing our vibrant community is good for downtown, for our theater, and for the fine artists in the area. But we could not do it without the support of Ambler Savings Bank.”
The festival is completely free to attendees. Included in the music lineup are professional bands like Billy Joel’s musicians’ band, “Big Shots.” Entrance to see them at other venues can go for $45 and more for each ticket. At the Ambler Arts & Music Festival you can see them for free on the Ambler Savings Bank Main Stage.
“We work together with the Borough of Ambler, Ambler Main Street, the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs to give back to the community,” says ASB President Roger Zacharia. “We all work in the same direction to showcase the best things Ambler has to offer to the people in the communities we serve. Ambler Savings Bank is proud to be able to provide the funding to bring in good musicians who entertain and put Ambler on the map.”
The Arts & Music Festival’s Beer Garden is one of the fundraising booths for the Rotary Club and Ambler Main Street. Roger and other employees of the Bank volunteer to help man the booth on Festival Day. Peter Phillips, ASB Trustee and President of Phillips Associates, the architecture firm who designed Ambler Savings Bank’s new corporate offices says he watches Ambler Savings Bank employees give back in sweat equity at this and all events in town. “Tips in the beer garden go right back to the Rotary & Ambler Main Street. The ASB Board and employees truly give all they can to make this a community event to benefit everyone.”
“There is no way this could happen without Ambler Savings Bank,” shares Liz Kunzier, Ambler Main Street Manager. “In addition to the financial support, they allow us to display posters and schedules in their lobby. Their Community Digital Board, which can be seen by every car driving through town, advertises the Festival. Their physical presence is a huge support.”
YEAR-ROUND SUPPORT OF THE COMMUNITY
In addition to the Arts & Music Festival, Ambler Savings Bank is a sponsor for the annual Holiday Parade, a Car Show in the Spring, Fireworks on the 4th of July, and the Oktoberfest. “They are real human beings who are accessible to all people in our community,” shares Kunzier. “It is such a comfort to know we have an organization in our town – and people who work there – who support Ambler’s residents as does Ambler Savings Bank.”
Ambler’s Borough Manager, Mary Aversa, calls Ambler Savings Bank the “epitome of a local bank.” “They allow youth groups to use their parking lot for car washes. They modify hours the days of our big events. If a local student is working on a project to raise awareness about, let’s say, recycling, Ambler Savings Bank helps them out too.”
Ambler Borough is experiencing a renaissance as new restaurants and shops open along Butler Avenue. The Wissahickon Creek is now used for recreation and enjoyment. People view Ambler as a place to go for fun and entertainment.
And Ambler Savings Bank, the anchor of the town in size and heart, continues to lift this town in the strength of their relationships with its residents. They are more than ‘just a bank’ to Ambler. They are real people who give back and care about their community.