Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Personal Perspective on Third Federal Savings and Loan

Not my usual topic. But the PD has been featuring Mark Stefanski, who has been running Third Federal for, they say, about 20 years now. I always think of them as an old fashioned bank; when in fact, they aren't. According to the PD they are the "third largest mutual thrift in the Country."

When I moved back to Cleveland in 1997, I wanted to open a checking account with them. But they didn't allow ATM cards. My 19 years in Washington DC mentality said huh? So I went with another bank. When I questioned the teller at the time, she said 'The Stefanski's believe we are better when we are basically a cash and carry people." Fast forward to my philosophy now, what with the average consumer 30k in debt and foreclosures rampant. There is wisdom in that philosophy. I don't know if they allow ATM cards now, but that teller's comment from 1997 has stuck with me all these years.

I also love the history of the bank. When traditional lenders in Cleveland would not lend to the Eastern Europeans (translate Polish) who came here to work the factories, Ben Stefanski started his own lending institution. I grew up on the outskirts of Slavic Village, and every family I knew, family or otherwise, used Third Fed. I know they made a fortune on mortgage loans to Clevelanders.

When I lived in Boston or St. Louis or Maryland I kept repeating the story of the history of Third Federal, with some pride that entrepreneurship was so successful and beneficial to the early Eastern European community of Cleveland. So here is the link again to the article.

(above is a commissioned bronze of Ben and Gerome Stefanski which sits at the Corporate Headquarters. It was done by one of my clients, the talented Ron Dewey from Light Sculpture Works.) Peace Out - 3C