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First Newton National Bank celebrates 80th anniversary

It is hard to believe that the First Newton National Bank turned 80 this year. The bank itself is actually 130 years old, but because of the Great Depression, the bank had to close temporarily.

“It’s a big milestone,” said First Newton National Bank President Gary Kahn.”We’ve had a lot of interesting history for 80 years. It’s always been locally owned.”

Unlike big banks, First Newton does not have stock holders. For 43 years, the Kahn family has owned the bank. Gary Kahn has even recruited fellow family member Rob Kahn. They have seen the bank grow since purchasing it.

“When we bought it, it was a $10 million bank,” Gary Kahn said. “Now it’s an $80 million bank. It’s a good community.”

In 1977, the Kahn family decided to change the name from Newton National Bank to First Newton National Bank. The reason behind the change was so the bank was listed first in the phone book.

In 1996, the bank was the first to form a Community Development Cooperation, which gives back to the community. The bank board also wanted to give back to the community. Activities included building homes, apartments and made low interest loans to organizations.

Unlike other banks, First Newton National was not affected by the bank crises of 2008. Kahn credits staying committed to the community.

“We want to stay a community bank,” he said. “We have good capital. We do not make risky loans. We felt that we could serve the community as well, if not better, than a large metropolitan bank.”

First Newton National has been able to offer services similar to the bigger banks, and Kahn said that is the reason they are around today. Since 1919, the bank has been located at 100 N. Second Ave. W., and has only moved once.

First Newton National has always been in involved in community projects, such as The Salvation Army, St. Nick’s Christmas Club, Christmas Tree Light Fund, Shoes that Fit and Progress Industries.

Kahn is proud of his staff. He has a low turnover rate compared to most banks. His staff even volunteers at local events and serves on boards such as Newton Development and Newton Housing.

“We treat our employees very well,” Kahn said. “We treat them as members of the family. We consider ourselves as one big family.”

The bank itself has had updates over the years, including a new lobby and new conference rooms.

The bank even worked with the FBI back in 1932 in an attempt to capture famed bank robber John Dillinger. The FBI stayed in town for months. Dillinger heard of the plan and decided not to rob the bank.

“When the FBI left, they left the bank one of their Thompson machine guns (Tommy gun),” Kahn said. “They said, ‘If he shows up, shoot him.’ We still have it in our vault. The bank has never been robbed.”

The gun is no longer in service, but sometimes customers can see it.

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