By Pam Windsor
Mark and Sandra Sokol have helped a lot of people throughout Middle Tennessee get organized. As owners of "Closets by Design" in Franklin for nearly two decades, they are experts in creating order out of chaos whether it is in a closet, pantry, mudroom, laun
Local Bank builds strong community partnerships
By Pam Windsor
It’s been a busy year for F&M Bank as it expands its footprint while continuing to build on its strong offering of financial services with a customer-friendly approach. With headquarters in Clarksville, F&M Bank opened its first office in Nashville in August 2021. Strategic growth lists their plans to open their first office in Kentucky later this year.
F&M Bank builds strong community partnerships by hiring bankers that are familiar with the local community. An interview with Mary Lankford, VP/Market Manager of the F&M Bank office in Franklin, demonstrates the commitment of the F&M Bank strategy. “When F&M opens an office, they focus on someone who is connected in the community,” Lankford explains. “It makes a difference, I think. Not only do we work hard to be your banker of choice, we want to be your customers, co-workers, volunteers, and friends. The goal is to not only offer great service but to be customer-connected.”
Lankford says that willingness to respond to a customer’s needs is a priority in every aspect of what they do. “I would say what makes it so special with this bank in particular is, if we run up against a roadblock, all of the people in the back office that are a huge part of our bank family, will go over and above to come up with a solution. That’s our culture. And that’s what’s made us successful, as we’ve seen so many other small banks being consumed by larger banks through mergers and acquisitions.”
F&M Bank was originally established in 1906 as Farmers & Merchants Bank in Bumpus Mills, Tennessee. The small bank held its own, surviving during the 1930s when the recession forced more than 10,000 other banks in the U.S. to close. Headquarters remained in the small Stewart County community until 1972 before expanding into Clarksville in 1989. In the years since it has grown and currently has banking and mortgage facilities in 10 markets throughout middle Tennessee.
In addition to branch locations, financial and educational news and resources may be found on its website and social media platforms. Visitors to https://myfmbank.com/ will find blogs and online videos on a variety of financial topics, activities for students and teachers K-12, occasional webinars for small business owners, and more. F&M Bank marketing reports show a definite increased interest in online visits over the past 18 months, especially during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown when customers didn’t have ready access to their local bank offices.
“It was just one of the customer-centric solutions offered to maintain a connection with customers during the pandemic. In Franklin, when it was necessary to close the bank lobby, employees still made sure to serve customers. We struggled not having a drive-thru,” Lankford says. “I’d tell customers they have my cell number, so give me a call, and I’ll run out while you circle through historic downtown Franklin. Our commercial loan officer, Michael Barker, would also schedule customer meetings outside the office as needed. We joked about it, saying we needed roller skates, but it all worked out.” She adds, “While I hope to never see another period like last year, those circumstances keep you focused on what’s important…and with F&M Bank, it’s always our family of customers and employees.”
F&M Bank is a member of FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender. For a list of all F&M Bank and F&M Mortgage locations, visit the website at https://myfmbank.com.dry room, home office, playroom, or garage.
"When someone calls us, what we're looking at is basically what someone's needs are and what their space will allow us to do, "says Sandra Sokol. "We want to be as creative as possible, but we also want to be cost-effective when we're beginning our design process."
They start by sending a design consultant to the home for a free consultation. Depending on the customers' needs, the designer might look at one small space, several different areas, or the entire home.
"The design consultants look at those spaces," says Sokol, "sits down and talks to the client about their needs and wants, then measures, designs, and prices everything right there. Clients select colors and materials, and in just a couple of hours, we have a contract signed and can give them an installation date."
"Closets by Design" has its own manufacturing plant allowing it to create everything on site. That helps shorten the time between the design and installation date, as well as alleviate any potential delays in the event of a last-minute change or adjustment. There is no need to order a shelf from somewhere else and wait for it to arrive when it can be made locally.
The Sokols, and their staff, take great pride in helping people clear their clutter and improve the quality of their lives. In the years they have been in business, they've often created organizational units for a family in one home, then been called back to do it again when the family moves to a second home, and perhaps even a third. The longevity of their business has worked in their favor.
In the wake of COVID-19, they saw business drop at first, then pick up when people found themselves forced to stay home. As the lockdown continued, there was a growing need to revamp and reorganize.
"When consumers started having to stay home and work remotely, they realized their houses weren't set up for that type of scenario," says Sokol. "So, we started getting calls from people saying, 'I need to have my house reworked, I've got to have a home office, or I've got to find a place to put the kid's toys because the mess is driving me crazy!"
Though located in Franklin, their territory stretches north to the Kentucky border, south to the Alabama border, east to Tullahoma, then just past Dickson to the west.
Sokol says every day brings new challenges and new rewards.
"We're in our 17th year of business, and my husband and I were just talking about how we'd do it all over again tomorrow. We love what we do! We love our customers, we love our work family, and we feel very, very fortunate."
Closets by Design is located at 118 Fort Granger Drive in Franklin. (615) 261-8700.