I first came across the Cow Pasture Bank while reading ‘I Inherited a Fortune’ by Paul J. Meyer. If you’re like me the words cow, pasture and bank don’t seem to meld AT ALL but believe me this was the bank’s name. Really The First State Bank of Rio Vista it was referred to as “The Cow Pasture Bank,” by Pop Myres, the bank’s publicity director.
What images does the word bank bring up for you? Are you seeing the faces of the tellers – pleasant but serious – after all banking is SERIOUS business. Are you seeing the security guards, the advertisements for mortgages, credit cards and loans for cars and children’s education?
Here’s Paul’s description of the Cow Pasture Bank on the inside:
“The decorations consisted of barbed wire, country farm relics and pictures of cattle drives. The wonderful aroma of fresh-baked cookies filled the place! I found out they bake one hundred dozen cookies every day.”
Nothing like a bank right?
Cow Pasture Bank provided a “fly-in” service: a customer could land on the airstrip at the back of the bank and walk up to the window to make a deposit or withdrawal.
And in case you were wondering about how well the bank was doing? Well back in 1974 it boasted of 12,000 customers and deposited 21.4 million!
Cow Pasture faithfully served local residents until the late 90s when it became another one of the “corporate” banks. It is now Wells Fargo. Initially they closed the runway but in 2008 Mayor Wm. Keith Hutchison made a request to the City Council to have it reopened, which they approved.
I think that the Cow Pasture found its voice in a way that businesses seem unable to do. Everyone is talking in unexciting terms, about being professional, effective and effectual. What does it mean if there is no life? No memorable experience for customers? You’ll be just another business, fighting for market share, based only on price. Cow Pasture did not try to be something it was not. It catered to farmers and business men who had small air crafts and provided a runway for them to land and do business.
When Paul J. Meyer found the bank this is what he said “Right then and there, I opened up a bank account at this unusual bank. I have thoroughly enjoyed sending people checks from the Cow Pasture Bank. By the way, the cookies were great!”
This believe it or not is an example of intention fulfilled. Lowell Smith, then President of the bank when asked about the bank checks with the cartoon drawing of a cowboy trying to rope in a steer with ‘the usual mistakes’ said “We try to play upon humor and give people a lift in advertising.”
And they did – by simply being true to who they were and what they wanted to achieve.