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Coffee led to Delta Bank
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Manteca’s bank that started over a cup of coffee almost 45 years ago is merging with Farmers & Merchants Bank of Central California.
Delta National Bank’s acquisition with the Lodi-based F&M Bank founded in 1916 will create a network of 28 branches with assets in excess of 2.7 billion in the Central Valley and East Bay. Delta has branches in Riverbank, Modesto, and Turlock besides their headquarters in Manteca. Delta has $106 million in assets.
F&M Bank at one time had looked at building a branch on the southeast corner of Alameda Street and North Main where a Beacon station once stood less than two blocks’ away from Delta Bank.
The merger is expected to be completed by year’s end. Longtime Delta Bank President, CEO, and Director Warren Wegge will work as an advisor to F&M Bank during the transition while Delta directors Valarie Rossi and Toinette Rossi will continue in consulting roles for a year.
How Delta Bank got started is part of Manteca lore.
Dairy cattle broker and hay seller Andrew Rossi more than 44 years ago stopped Joe Freitas on the street.
Rossi, who made it a habit to get up at 3 a.m. so he could engage buddies in racquetball at the Stockton YMCA before hitting the road to run his business in a day that usually went beyond sundown, had a plan he wanted to tell his former Manteca High classmate about.
Freitas had been retired after working seven days a week for almost 30 years running his own business, Joe’s Food Center, when the two sat down that day at Brawley’s for coffee.
“Andrew told me he wanted to start a bank,” Freitas recalled in an interview in 2008. “I remember exactly what I told him: ‘What the hell have you been smoking?’”
Rossi was serious.
A day later he flagged down Ferias again for coffee but this time they swung by Manteca Drug Store to collect another former Manteca High classmate — Ted Poulos who worked as a pharmacist seven days a week and even got up in the middle of the night to fill emergency prescriptions.
Rossi laid out the plan delineating details of what was required to launch a bank including coming up with a $1 million bankroll from investors.
“He had researched it pretty well,” Freitas recalled.
The trio agreed Manteca needed a local independent bank and set about founding Delta Bank. They raised the necessary capital in 30 days and opened for business on July 3, 1973 in Riverbank. Regulators wouldn’t let them open in Manteca at the time because a third bank was locating in the town expanding the list to Central Bank, Mid-Cal and Bank of America. Within two years, though, they were able to open a branch and move their headquarters to Manteca.
Thirty five years later, Delta Bank in 2008 had assets of more than $160 million with 52 employees and branches in Manteca, Riverbank, Turlock, Modesto and Stockton.
“It was difficult to get a loan back then,” said Poulos in 2008 who had been serving as the board’schairman since the bank’s inception.
Bank of America, which had bought out the independent banks of Manteca’s early years, required all loan decisions to be made at corporate headquarters in San Francisco. That often took weeks and was done by people who had no personal connection with the community and had no idea about the economy and needs of Manteca or the people they were dealing with.
Freitas remembers when he went to a chain bank that had a branch in Manteca 70 years ago to make a loan. As a newlywed he had little assets. The response he got? The branch manager told him not to let the door hit him in the backside on the way out.
Another bank with a branch in Manteca at the time did give him the $100,000 he needed.
Freitas never forgot that initial encounter with a banker.
Originally, Freitas had scouted out a site downtown for the bank branch and the new bank bought the lot for $100,000.
But then he was driving by the shuttered Volkswagen dealership on the northern edge of town on North Main Street one day and realized that it was the right location.
The bank is still headquartered in the converted VW dealership while Manteca has caught up with their early vision. The parcel downtown now houses a Chase branch.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email