KANSAS CITY, MO—Loan officers at the First National Bank of Kansas City defended their decision to lend local man Tim Creamsby $650,000 to open a small stationery store Monday, explaining that, while the business's long-term prospects were poor, the idea was "simply too pathetic and heartbreaking" not to sign off on.
"In order to qualify for a loan of that size, an applicant normally must demonstrate significant financial holdings, have an impeccable credit score, and fill out a number of contracts," First National loan officer Robert Lewiston said. "But when I met Mr. Creamsby and listened to his pitiful story about how he'd worked all his life at an office-chair factory to save up for his dream—his dream to have a little shop where people could buy thank-you notes and maybe pick up some fountain-pen ink every now and then—well, I blurted out the first number that came to mind just to make him stop."
"You see, he had these little drawings of what the storefront would look like," Lewiston added. "Tiny little sketches he drew himself. Christ, that almost did me in."
Though in the past six weeks the bank has denied loan requests from a Mobil franchisee, an Internet service provider, and an agribusiness warehouser, officers decided to approve the 64-year-old's proposal for the simple notes-and-envelopes shop within 20 minutes.
Several factors reportedly contributed to their generous offer, most notably having to watch the kind-faced old man pull from his pocket a small, dog-eared slip of paper—worn soft as felt from years of repeated handling—on which he had written a number of potential store names, including "Notable Notes," "The Jottery," and "Creamsby's Sheaves."
"I was about to suggest that he consider a more practical business, like a coffee shop or a hat store, but then he brought out that list of names," bank vice president Nathan Bergeson said while attempting to remove some dust that had gotten into his eye. "I think the bank's going to have to eat this one."
Creamsby, who told bank officials he had nothing of value to offer as collateral on the loan, save the word of a proud Missourian, shook the hand of every single employee at the bank after learning of the approval and promised "not to let [them] down." Witnesses described him as a short, fragile-looking man who kept kneading the brim of his hat in his hands in this unbearably tragic way.
Although Bergeson and his fellow lenders anticipated the staggering number they quoted would be denied by the bank's board of directors, all 12 executive members signed off on it after reviewing Creamsby's "heart-wrenching" plan to hire his granddaughter to answer phones and lift the heavier boxes of sealing wax.
Some board members also suggested financing the loan at three points below the prime rate and conducting an office-wide collection to help him with his first few payments.
"Mr. Creamsby believes he will be able to cover expenses by selling small leather journals and the occasional spool of ribbon," CFO Brenden Gibson said. "His 10-year development plan consists of setting up a small wicker basket near the door where customers can leave the Christmas cards they didn't use that year to be bought for a nickel each by people who just need one or two and…excuse me, I need to go call my mother."
Bank officials are denying that their decision to place a standing annual order with Mr. Creamsby for $16,000 in calligraphy supplies was in any way prompted by the plate of homemade cookies Mrs. Creamsby delivered to their offices as a token of appreciation for their loan.