MINNEAPOLIS - It's less than 50 miles as the crow flies from BankWindsor's Nerstrand, Minn., headquarters to its flagship branch in downtown Minneapolis. But the bank's operations in the two communities are worlds apart.

In 1988, a group of ambitious Minneapolis investors paid $250,000 for tiny Farmers State Bank. They got the $2.5 million-asset operation in Nerstrand, its collection of small-town accounts and farm loans, and its state charter. Charter in hand, they pumped $3 million in capital into the operation and moved the main offices to Minneapolis, where they created BankWindsor, a decidedly posh bank catering to customers with net worths of at least $1 million.

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