Warren Reed celebrates 65 years insuring small-town life
October 30, 2012
How many insurance agencies have a cabinet in their conference room brimming with scrapbooks? Binders full of newspaper clippings and photographs from a bygone, black-and-white era?Last week, employees of Warren Reed Insurance sat down in such a conference room and pored over mementos that encompassed 65 years of business in a small town.Bruce Hollander, a 47-year property and casualty agent, remembers when the office received its first computer in 1984.“It was 40 megabytes, and the size of a two-drawer filing cabinet,” he said. Hollander’s stepbrother Alan Reed, the son of founder Warren Reed and current company president, recalls the progression from carbon paper and corrective type to the groundbreaking technology of the backspace key.“Three things have stayed the same: People, attitude and teamwork,” he said. “We see ourselves as a small-town business, and we don’t want to change that.”Warren Reed Insurance is celebrating its 65 birthday this fall, making it one of the oldest businesses in Carson Valley. The operation started in 1947 when Warren Reed, a truck driver for the Minden Flour Milling Co., started “peddling insurance” in the living room of his Eighth Street house. A year later, he was renting a single room in the Farmers Bank Building in downtown Minden for $20 a month. In 1951, he moved into a small building across the street that lacked running water. Fortunately, his clients could use proper facilities at the Minden Inn.Alan Reed explained that the small building underwent a number of transformations over the years. Today, the renovated property houses the Minden Food Co., formerly Barone & Reed.In 1986, Warren Reed Insurance relocated to its current headquarters in downtown Gardnerville. Although business volume increased and technology evolved, the firm’s dozen employees remained, and still remain, heavily rooted in the community.In fact, the majority of the Warren Reed team is made up of locals, ranging from Hollander, who graduated from Douglas County High School in 1963, to Baudelia Campos, who graduated a Tiger in 2002. Other familiar faces include Todd Wilcks, UNR football hall-of-famer, and Mike Downs, coach of the Pau-Wa-Lu eighth-grade boys basketball team.“Everyone in here is connected to the community,” said Reed, who himself graduated from Douglas County High School in 1970. “But everyone also has a second love.”Those “second loves” entail youth sports, volunteer firefighting, and Reel for Recovery, a fly-fishing retreat in the Sierra for cancer patients. As part of its civic outreach, the company also funded flashing lights for the school traffic zone outside CVMS. That was more than 30 years ago.Such community involvement, Reed and his agents would argue, belies the image of insurance companies as giant, faceless bureaucracies.Campos gave the example of a client whose child was killed in a tragic auto accident.“Because we’d been doing face-to-face meetings here for so long, this person knew me and was comfortable coming in and having a heart-to-heart talk,” she said. “To them, it didn’t feel like doing another claim.”“No day goes by that we don’t have people in this office, clients, staying an extra 15, 30, 60 minutes just to talk,” added Downs. “That’s a comfort for people.”Reed calls it “good, old-fashioned face-to-face meetings.” The relationships have proved generational. Some agents are now selling policies to grown-up children whose births they remember fondly because their parents were clients at the timeTo put it another way, property and casualty agent Jim Norton recalled that another company had asked how Warren Reed insured so many “retirees.”“They didn’t realize these people had been our clients since the 1950s,” he said. Over 65 years, the company has developed an impressive personal and commercial customer base, including two dozen public entities. It also has adapted to regulatory changes in specific product areas, such as health insurance.“We have to stay up-to-date in changes in the marketplace,” said life and health agent Jeff Long. “As an agency, we have to be able to see those changes and advise clients accordingly.”“We need to stay one step ahead of other agencies,” added Wilcks, “whether that means technology, education or in service.”This ability to adapt has enabled uncommon longevity. But 65 years in business in a small town still begs the question: What of the future?At 60, Alan Reed has five children, one still in high school. He expects that they may have a role to play at the company his father started in 1947.“100 years or bust,” he said with a smile.To celebrate their anniversary with the holiday season, Warren Reed Insurance is hosting a customer appreciation day, with wine and appetizers, 2-6 p.m. Dec. 7.The business is located at 1521 Highway 395, Gardnerville. For more information, call 782-2277 or visit http://www.warrenreed.com.