First Choice Bank
“Home Owned and Operated Since 1900”
First Choice Bank opened its doors on September 1, 1900, in the Salmon and Wilson Store under the original name of the Merchant and Farmers Bank. After one month of business it boasted assets of $25,684.11 and outstanding loans of $3,770.24.
On March 12, 1908, the Bank was granted a national bank charter and the name was changed to The First National Bank of Pontotoc. The location of the Bank was moved to the, then new, Sawilmon Hotel on Main Street.
In 1926 the charter President, Mr. John Henry Salmon, died and was followed by Mr. W. A. Boone. During this period, the Merchants and Farmers Bank of Ecru remained a branch office and the Bank of Toccopola merged with First National Bank. By the 1930’s, assets exceeded $937,000.
Then came the Depression when all banks were closed by the Federal Government. With Mr. Al Duff at the helm, First National Bank was the first bank in Pontotoc County to reopen. Unfortunately, Mr. Duff died after only two short months. Mr. John H. Salmon was elected President in his place.
On December 9, 1933, fire destroyed the Sawilmon Hotel. Thanks to the Bank officers and several townspeople, the bank records were saved; the vault doors were closed before the flames reached the area. Temporary headquarters were established in the Supervisor’s room of the Pontotoc County Courthouse.
A new building was constructed on the corner of Jefferson and Main, with the famous bank clock being placed on the front for everyone's convenience. Under the leadership of Mr. Salmon, the bank took an active role in the industrial and agricultural development of Pontotoc County. Mr. Salmon was the charter president of the Industrial Group. By 1965 bank assets exceeded $5,000,000.
After John H. Salmon’s death, Mr. Farrell Berryhill became President on January 12, 1965. Mr. Berryhill followed in his predecessor’s footsteps by remaining active in the community and in other educational and banking associations. During his reign, the Bank experienced its greatest period of growth, exceeding $124,000,000 in assets by 1993. The first branch was opened on Highway 15 in 1968. The downtown bank building was enlarged and remodeled three times. In 1987, the bank was computerized, making manual entries obsolete and account information easy to access. The unique tradition of serving customer appreciation lunches during Christmas open house festivities was begun. First National Bank was recognized as one of the outstanding small banks in the United States and received many national five star ratings.
In 1993, at the death of Mr. Berryhill, Mr. Buddy R. Montgomery was named President. He has continued to lead the Bank to new heights. In 1994, the Pontotoc Branch of Security Federal Savings and Loan was bought, resulting in a $7,000,000 increase in deposits. A swap of the Security Federal Building was made with Henderson-Boone Insurance Agency to provide future growth for the Bank. The Bank’s first full-service branch was opened in November, 1997, located at the intersection of Highway 15 Bypass and Industrial Drive. The 5,400 square-foot facility includes five drive-thru teller stations, six teller stations, an automated teller machine and a safe deposit box vault. At this time, the original branch bank was closed.
With the help of Pontotoc County citizens in 1997, a hostile take-over bid was rebuffed by First National Bank. As a result, the Bank became the property of Pontotoc BancShares Corp., a holding company, solidifying its commitment to remain an independent, community-oriented bank.
The old branch facility was renovated and reopened in August of 2002 as the Express Drive-Thru branch. This facility included five drive thru lanes and an automated teller machine. This has since been closed as a branch and is now simply an ATM location, but has the potential to be used for another purpose by the bank as other opportunities arise. In the summer of 2011, First National Bank made a decision to invest in the future of Ecru by placing a new branch in the city limits. Shortly after that decision, a piece of property was purchased, and to help things get going as soon as possible, a mobile unit was brought in to serve the customers in Ecru while the new bank was being constructed at 7670 Hwy 15 North. As of October 13, 2011, First National officially opened its doors in Ecru, and on October 1, 2012, the new building was open for business as a full service branch. The building includes two drive-thru teller stations, a drive-thru automated teller machine, and four inside teller stations.
After many months of research and much deliberation by the Board and bank management, the bank changed its charter to a State Member bank on June 30, 2015. The bank’s name was changed on this date to First Choice Bank. There were a number of factors that weighed into this move, but paramount among these was to allow the bank to compete on a level playing field with its completion; all of whom are State Chartered banks.
Over the years, First Choice Bank has maintained a well-respected reputation and has remained a solid financial institution. Five star ratings of the institution continue year after year. First Choice Bank is currently a member of the Mississippi Bankers’ Association, The Independent Community Bankers of America and the American Bankers’ Association.
Continuous efforts are being made by the Bank to promote growth and the enrichment of the quality of life throughout Pontotoc County. First Choice Bank’s directors, officers, and employees have always been known for their friendliness, dedication, hard work and interest in the community and its endeavors. They are committed to their strategic plan which will lead the bank successfully into the 22nd century.
First Choice Bank has long enjoyed the reputation of being home owned and operated. Community ties are strong. The Bank is committed to continue this tradition throughout its future history. The Bank will continue to honor its motto – “You’re important to us, and we prove it.”