On a quiet September morning, the just-risen sun radiating through the windows, a warm, sweet scent wafted through Choice Bank in Ellendale, North Dakota. In the kitchen, Client Services Specialist Niki Pahl pulled a tray of cookies—one dozen chocolate chip, one dozen monster—from the oven.
Every morning, employees take turns baking cookies to entice customers at the bank’s coffee cart. But these particular cookies were not destined for the coffee cart; they were meant for a very special purpose.
The previous day began like any other. Niki was stationed at the front line alongside Relationship Banker Liz VanAarde when a local farmer, Brad, walked through the doors. Brad is a longtime Choice customer and a welcome face at the bank.
“The bakery closed last year, so he had to go home and bake two dozen cookies. And he definitely wasn’t looking forward to it.”
“Everybody knows Brad,” Liz said. “He’s a super nice guy, and he’s funny! We always look forward to seeing him.”
Brad made his usual small talk as Niki took care of his transaction, but as he was getting ready to leave, he grumbled about having to go “do some baking.” Niki caught the lack of enthusiasm in his tone and asked why he needed to bake—a hobby that no one at the bank would have ever expected from Brad.
Brad explained that EcoEd, an annual ecology education event for middle school youth hosted by the James River Soil Conservation District, was scheduled for the next day at the Dickey County Fairgrounds. As a member of the Board of Directors for James River, Brad was responsible for chaperoning and teaching at the event. He was also on treat duty.
“He used to get his cookies at our local bakery, but the bakery closed last year, so he had to go home and bake two dozen cookies,” Niki said. “And he definitely wasn’t looking forward to it.”
Just then, an idea popped into Niki’s mind. Without hesitating, Niki told Brad that she would bake the cookies for him, right there at the bank.
Brad was shocked.
“He looked at me like I was crazy and asked if I was serious,” Niki said. “I said, ‘Sure! Why not?’”
Niki arrived at the bank at 7:45 the next morning and got started right away because Brad needed the cookies by 9 a.m. By the time Brad arrived at the bank en route to the fairgrounds, Niki had the cookies baked, packaged, and ready to go.
“He was very grateful and definitely surprised,” Niki said. “When you walk into your bank, you don’t expect someone to help you bake cookies for tomorrow. But it was very helpful to him, it was something he didn’t have to think about the rest of the day, and I enjoyed doing it for him.”
“I think that that’s what makes Choice, Choice. It’s about the little things that add up to help us build relationships with our customers.”
According to Liz, it is not uncommon for Niki to take time out of her own day to make someone else’s a little bit brighter. In the one year that Niki has been with Choice, she has embodied every single one of the bank’s core values, especially “Smile, Be Helpful, and Be Passionate.”
“If somebody needs something, she will do it. Even if she doesn’t have the time to do it,” Liz said. “I was gone that day and it’s just the two of us here on the front line in Ellendale. So, she baked those cookies for Brad while also taking care of all of our customers that day. That meant a lot to me. It could have been a really stressful morning, but she did it anyway.”
Liz also believes that Niki’s story is a perfect example of the ways that Choice employees are empowered to go above and beyond to put People First.
“I think that that’s what makes Choice, Choice. It’s about the little things that add up to help us build relationships with our customers,” Liz said. “There are opportunities all around us, and Niki has done a wonderful job taking them and going for it.”