When Ideal Bank opened in 1920, it did business for two hours one day a week - on Thursday evenings when the domestic servants had time off.
In an era when blacks couldn't bank at white-owned institutions, Ideal was a place where they could apply for a home mortgage or open a savings account.
For years, the bank on Druid Hill Avenue prospered, and in 1962 began offering full-time banking hours.
But after decades of prosperity, times have changed for Ideal and other black-owned banking institutions.
About 45 black-owned commercial banks and thrift institutions survive today in the United States, fewer than half the number in business about 40 years ago, according to the Mbank Council, formed in San Francisco in 2001, which tracks minority financial institutions.
Mainstream banks no longer shun black customers as they did during times of segregation. In turn, black customers have abandoned black-owned banks, prompting many to close.
"In the '60s, the need was different," said Dina Curtis of the nonprofit America's Community Bankers.
"Black-owned financial institutions were formed out of a need, and now that need has tremendously diminished. Money is green. It's no longer black, brown or yellow."
In Baltimore, black-owned banks are holding their own, despite fierce competition.
This city has one of the largest concentrations of black-owned financial institutions in the country with three headquartered within the city: Ideal, Harbor Bank of Maryland and Advance Bank. New Orleans is the only other city with as many. None has more.
But staying viable isn't easy. Each of the Baltimore institutions has had to change its business model to attract a broader customer base. And, for one, it's a daily struggle to remain open.
The founders of Harbor Bank, the most successful of the three, began talking about the concept of the bank in the 1960s but the idea didn't come to fruition until 1982, when a diverse group of businessmen and businesswomen opened the bank on Fayette Street with a $2.2 million investment.
Harbor realized 10 years later that, to stay competitive, it would have to target more than just black customers. It began to promote itself as a community bank rather than a minority-owned institution.
The strategy has helped it grow to become Baltimore's largest black-owned bank, with six branches and $210 million in assets.
"You must be able to adapt and tweak your business so that it stays [in harmony] with the demand of your market," said Joseph Haskins, president, chief executive officer and one of the founders of Harbor Bank. "Over time, we actually dropped references to ethnicity and race."
Advance and Ideal, both of which are considerably smaller than Harbor, also have recognized the need to broaden their markets.
Until recently, both had kept their businesses on an even keel by targeting loyal, largely minority neighborhood customers such as churches and small businesses. Advance has $43 million in assets, while Ideal has about $8 million.
Advance took steps to reshape its strategy last year, when it opened a new headquarters, abandoning the storefront concept that had helped to define its small-town image since its founding in 1957. This month, the bank closed on its first acquisition, buying Berean Bank in West Philadelphia.
Later this year, Advance plans to begin offering Internet banking and start a loan program for small businesses.
"You can't stay stagnant," said Advance President John Hamilton. "In this market, size matters. Without size you can't deliver services and be competitive in the market."
For relatively tiny Ideal, it's a day-to-day challenge to keep operating.
Teackle Wallis Lansey and several black community leaders, including a janitor, high school principal and a chauffeur, put together $100,000 in 1920 to open the bank across the street from Lansey's laundry company, which had a contract to wash linens for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
Today, 83 years later, the bank is still in that one-room storefront office. It's not uncommon for the president, Yvonne Lansey, Teackle Lansey's granddaughter, to fill in as teller.
Yvonne Lansey had all kinds of plans for her family's bank when she joined the board in 1977 and became president and chief executive officer in 1988. The banker, who formerly worked for the Federal Reserve, was able to upgrade the computer system and helped convert Ideal from a state-backed savings and loan association to a federally insured bank.
But Lansey said Ideal needs to do much more to compete. The bank has all the offerings of most banks - mortgages, direct deposit, checking and savings accounts. Many people, however, don't know the bank exists or look at the storefront and don't consider it a real bank.
Lansey would like to move Ideal to a new building and create a marketing plan to attract customers. She doesn't have the money to do either.
"We're just a small, simple operation, very simple," Lansey said. "If I don't grow, I will collapse."