Commerce State Bank expands
New location, adjacent custard stand, designed to fit city

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

Dec. 16, 2014

Participating in the ribbon-cutting, from left, are: Katie Rabuck, relationship management, Commerce State Bank; Jon Willems, commercial lender, Commerce State Bank; Joe Fazio, CEO and chairman, Commerce State Bank; Christy Mertes, Cedarburg city administrator/treasurer; Cedarburg Mayor Kip Kinzel; Kristine Hage, executive director; Art Filter, Cedarburg Common Council member; Sue Miller, marketing, Commerce State Bank; and Mary Sheffield, Cedarburg economic development coordinator  
Photo by Art Dahlke

CEDARBURG — Even though Commerce State Bank has entered its fifth year of service to the greater Cedarburg community, last week marked a major milestone for the bank with an open house at its new bank facility.

“When we first opened in Cedarburg, we leased space,” says Joe Fazio, CEO, Chairman and co-founder of the West Bend-based bank. “We said, ‘Let’s get started, let’s build some value.’ We wanted to earn the right in the community to have a bigger facility.”

About two years after leasing space in the city’s south commercial district, Fazio said the bank learned that an adjacent parcel of land was up for sale: the corner of Lincoln and Washington Avenue.

“We purchased the land, which was the corner where Out and Out was located, the lot behind it and the former Stone Manor Bridal house,” he says. “We were in no hurry to put the bank up; we knew we had plenty of time to do something with the bank.”

Commerce State Bank has moved across the street to a larger, more accommodating facility.  
Photo by Art Dahlke

Fazio lives in Cedarburg, and while he knew a major change was likely for that corner, he also knew the importance of keeping one thing the same.

“The day or day after we purchased the property, we went to Eric Fix, the owner of Out and Out,” he says. “We told him that we wanted him to stay on that corner. From a community standpoint, there was something important and nostalgic about being able to go there and have ice cream or custard.”

Fazio says that this idea was integrated into the design plans for the parcel, which also included input from the city planner and board members.

“We wanted something that worked well within Cedarburg, something that would last long and endure from a design standpoint,” he said. “We didn’t want to try and build a new building that is trying to look old.”

Fazio says that while Cedarburg is certainly thought of as a historic building, if you walk through the downtown, it’s really a collection of buildings constructed throughout the decades: some commercial structures from the city’s earliest decades, a 1950s gas station, a 1970s hair salon and so on. The end result is a collection of architecture that gives the city its overall character.

Instead, the bank worked with Zimmerman Architectural Studios to create a design with an influence that was not only classic American, but also a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie school of design. Commerce State Bank is the only occupant in the building, though some additional space remains vacant. It will either be used by the bank for expansion purposes or rented out to a professional-services tenant, such as an attorney, accountant or other similar service-type business.

“We definitely did incorporate Cedarburg history into the building, but its in the interior,” says Fazio. “We used photos from the Rappold and Dobberpuhl collections at the Cedarburg Cultural Center. In fact, we have a number of photos down one hallway that show how Washington Avenue has changed over the years.”

Another important feature was to keep the site pedestrian friendly, while still featuring the architecture. This is why parking for the property is located behind the building rather than in front of it.

“Of course, Eric would have liked to be directly on the corner as we would as well, but our design ultimately separated the buildings with space where people could gather and eat custard and hang out,” he says. “What’s great is that both buildings are still visible on the site. As a design feature, it’s just really cool.”

Ironically, while the corner provides a great place for pedestrians to congregate, one of the biggest changes to Out and Out’s own business model is that the former carryout restaurant now includes indoor seating. In fact, the seating mix is quite eclectic, featuring stools hand painted by Out and Out employees, and a number of Craigslist finds, including classroom chairs from Kenosha School District and booths from a Palmyra bowling alley.

Commerce State Bank welcomed about 150 people at their open house in Cedarburg, a number that really pleased Fazio and the employees.

“Our bank started out in West Bend in 2005, and we knew that Cedarburg was the second community we wanted to be in – it matches with the kind of business we are. We believe in being active in the community, and in networking people together so that they can become more successful. Cedarburg is a very tight-knit community, and we’re glad that we can be a part of it.”