At first glance, this sleepy hamlet - home to towering redwoods and aging Grateful Dead fans - doesn't appear a good fit for a bank with roots in South San Francisco.

South San Francisco, 70 miles north of Ben Lomond, is an utterly urban area. Home to San Francisco International Airport, it has a population of more than 54,000, and its nickname, "the Industrial City," leaves little doubt about its character.

But Liberty Bank, which is based there, chose Ben Lomond (pronounced Ben Loh-mend) for its third office, reinforcing one of the weirder pairings in Northern California community banking.

The Ben Lomond branch of $81 million-asset Liberty Bank will join the branch office in Boulder Creek, a couple of miles up the road.

Three offices within 70 miles might not seem that unusual. But Liberty's main office and its two branches couldn't be more different. Despite the demographic differences, the main office and the Boulder Creek branch work well with each other.

"This is an unusual operation," said chief executive Samuel S. Mosunic. "But it works."

"Basically, the deposits down there have been supplying our loan demand up here," he said. "The loan demand in Boulder Creek is very low compared to South San Francisco, and the competition for deposits is practically zero there, while up in South San Francisco it's very competitive."

Liberty Bank was founded in 1982 as a business lender. Its main office remains dedicated to serving the small-business community of South San Francisco and its surroundings.

In the middle 1980s, Liberty was undercapitalized and in need of deposits. One of Liberty's directors had a second home in Boulder Creek, and officials jumped when another bank announced it would close its branch in the community. A stock offering helped fund the purchase.

Liberty officials knew banking in a suburban community would be very different from in South San Francisco, but they felt it was an opportunity they couldn't pass up.

"We've got two very different cultures," Mr. Mosunic said. "I thought I was going to have problems, but it's been working great."

There have been drawbacks, however. Patrick F. DeMoro, vice president and manager of the Boulder Creek office, pointed out some tangible disadvantages:

"We don't have any economies of scale because the areas are so different," he said. "For example, we're in two completely different markets, and there's no advertising medium that covers both areas."

The bank has also had to vary its operations a bit to accommodate the two branches.

Both Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond are bedroom communities of San Jose, the heart of high-tech Silicon Valley. Mr. Mosunic said the Ben Lomond branch would stay open well past typical banking hours and also Saturdays and Sundays to serve commuters better.

Then there's the increased emphasis on Liberty's role within the community. As the lone retail bank in Boulder Creek and the only bank of any kind in Ben Lomond, Liberty relishes its significance.

"This community is a throwback to 20 years ago," Mr. DeMoro said of Boulder Creek. "You can walk down the street and know everybody by name. There's a sense of community here that's rapidly disappearing in California, and we're a part of that."

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