Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh celebrates 150 years

September 17, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Catherine Murray, Marie Giaimo, Joseph G. Kiefer and Carmen Calderon have been devoted customers of the Dime Savings Bank for at least 35 years, and were invited to its Williamsburg branch to celebrate the bank’s 150th anniversary.

For 23 years, Carmen Calderon walked 60 blocks to and from work every day, passing the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh each way. One day in 1971, she stopped in to open a Christmas Club account. She’s been going back ever since.

“At first it was convenient for me, but then it quickly started to feel like home,” Calderon said. “Everyone was so nice to me and even though I only spoke a little bit of English, they were so patient and took the time to explain things to me.”

Calderon said she used to put $1 or $2 into her Christmas Club account each week when she worked in a factory for just $4.75 a day. Next she opened a savings account, then some certificates of deposit (CD) and eventually an IRA. She has since moved out of Williamsburg to the Bronx, but still drives at least an hour to do her banking at the Dime’s Havemeyer Street branch.

“In 43 years, I’ve never really thought about switching banks,” Calderon said. “After I moved, I went to the Bronx branch a couple of times, but then I started coming back here because this is my home. I like the way the staff treats me here. They have a lot of courtesy and professionalism.”

Calderon was one of four Dime Savings Bank customers who were invited to celebrate the bank’s 150th anniversary on Monday. Her and the three others – Catherine Murray from the Bronx, Joseph Kiefer from Merrick and Marie Giaimo from Bayside –  were given commemorative passbooks and were allowed to open CDs with the same six-percent interest rate that customers had when the bank opened in 1864.

“We wanted to recognize the enduring relationships by virtue of bringing in the four customers who come from different areas of the marketplace,” said Larry Kinitsky, the senior vice president of marketing at Dime. “It was important for us to say thanks to the community, and thanks to our customers, because without them, that sign wouldn’t be hanging on the wall for 150 years.”

The Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh initially opened on June 1, 1864, in the basement of the Williamsburgh City Bank, which was located on the corner of what is now Kent Avenue and Broadway. Monday marked the 150th anniversary of the first account opened at the bank.

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The original bank then moved to 1517 Broadway in Bushwick in 1872 and then to its own building at what is now Broadway and Wythe Avenue in 1873. Finally, in 1908, it moved to its current location on the corner of Havemeyer and South Fifth streets where it has stood for 106 years.

“We’ve seen some pretty amazing transformations during our tenure,” Dime’s COO Ken Mahon said. “The waterfront in Williamsburg was so vibrant back in the day. Then the community really deteriorated to the point where there were burned out buildings, industry left and it sort of just languished for 20 years. Eventually, the city reinvigorated itself, so we’ve been through the best and the worst and now the best again.”

There are currently 25 branches of the Dime Savings Bank. It became a publicly-owned company traded on the NASDAQ roughly 17 years ago, but it is proud that many of its 400 employees and many hundred more customers are shareholders in the company. It plans on opening another branch in Williamsburg in the near future.

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