Standard Insurance Celebrates 100 Years
Since their incorporation as Standard Insurance and Realty in 1917, the Strandberg family has been managing risk and caring for the insurance needs of individuals, families, and businesses throughout our state and beyond.
Photo Credit: Standard Insurance
Representing the third generation of Strandberg leadership, J. Buckley Strandberg has built upon a tradition of quality customer service. Like his grandfather, father and older brother before him, Buckley Strandberg has stressed the importance of getting to know his customers, their needs, and their goals.
“We have some customers who have been with us since I have been here – for 35 years. And without them, we wouldn’t have been able to survive. They have been very loyal and supportive and we’ve been very appreciative of that,” Strandberg said.
According to Strandberg, long-term staff members have provided the consistency customers desire. Some staff members have been with the company twenty or more years.
One of those staff members is Kim Bletsas, Agency Manager & Agent. With 28 years of service at Standard, she has seen her staff build trusted relationships with their many customers over the years.
“Many have become not only customers, but friends. That kind of loyalty means the world to us and speaks volumes that our staff work hard to provide them with the service and care needed to take care of their insurance needs. Taking care of our clients, both old and new gives me and our staff a feeling of pride,” Bletsas said.
Bletsas began in the personal lines department at Standard and then became an account manager in the commercial lines department in 1992. In 2000, she moved into the role of office manager.
“When I started, we employed five staff members in our insurance division, and two in our property management side. Today we currently have 18 staff members. Our agency has quadrupled in size over these last 28 years,” Bletsas said.
Photo Credit: Standard Insurance
According to Bletsas, Standard Insurance has direct contracts with over 20 insurance companies, and have relationships with top brokers, which allows them to have access to hundreds of insurance carriers nationwide. They write insurance for both business and personal accounts across the state, and are able to write in Virginia and South Carolina as needed to accommodate their client’s needs.
Standard has received numerous awards from the many insurance companies they partner with, based on both production and performance. Both Strandberg and Bletsas attribute Standard’s great success over the years to their hard-working staff.
“We spend a lot of time at work, and it’s important to know that at the end of the day, we care for each other outside of these walls. I can think of so many times when one of our staff had a need, we all were there to pitch in and help in any way needed,” Bletsas said.
Standard’s agents have earned certified designations of CPCU, AAI, AIC, CBIA, AFIS, CRIS, CISR Elite, CIC, and CPIW. Every agent in their office currently holds at least one of those designations.
Standard has also consistently been involved in the community over the years. Some of the organizations Standard supports are the Rocky Mount Area United Way, The American Red Cross, North Carolina Wesleyan College, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region.
When asked about how Standard has achieved their success and growth over the years, Strandberg emphasized the importance of networking, community involvement, and building customer relationships. The insurance industry, however, has certainly experienced many changes over the years.
In 1985, Standard’s first in-house computer system was installed. This changed many procedures and of course, required additional staff training. It streamlined both processes and routines and increased efficiency.
“Our industry has become extremely automated since I’ve been in it. Going from tons and tons of paper and file cabinets to basically paperless. It allows us to access information so much quicker and transmit information between customer and insurance companies instantaneously. We are a whole lot more efficient than we were when I first got in the business,” Strandberg said.
Strandberg looks forward to the future of Standard Insurance. Currently, Standard Insurance has offices located in Rocky Mount, Wilson, Wilmington, and Nags Head. His goal is to grow the business in these existing markets. “We certainly have the capacity to service and take on more customers,” Strandberg said.
Standard’s special Centennial Celebration was held on Friday, October 13 with over 100 people in attendance. Attendees enjoyed catering from Gardner’s Barbecue along with entertainment from Strictly Bizzness.
Photo Credit: Standard Insurance
Standard Insurance & Realty was incorporated in 1917 as an independent agency in Rocky Mount, North Carolina by a group of local businessmen to provide property management and insurance to themselves and their community.
In 1935, Howard H. Strandberg, Sr., grandfather of current President J. Buckley Strandberg, was employed as the manager. He employed M. W. Ivey as his associate. Strandberg and Ivey operated the business with Strandberg concentrating on insurance sales and service and real estate sales, and Ivey concentrating on real estate and property management.
In 1952, Howard H. "Stran" Strandberg, Jr., returned from college and military service and entered the agency with his primary emphasis in the area of insurance.
Upon the death of Howard Sr. in 1964, ownership of the agency became vested equally between Stran and Ivey. In 1975, Stran purchased the interest of Ivey and became the sole stockholder.
Stran became very proficient and knowledgeable in all lines of insurance. Through his efforts and leadership, both within the business and the community, the agency grew and was recognized as one of the three premier insurance agencies in Rocky Mount.
Stran was privileged to handle insurance for some of the areas finest companies and public entities: Hardee's Food Systems, NC Wesleyan College, The City of Rocky Mount, Rocky Mount School System, Boice Willis Medical Clinic and Nash General Hospital.
As Standard Insurance & Realty continued to grow, it became obvious to Standard that they were well on our way to fulfilling the concept of a complete agency – with markets, personnel and expertise to service the broad spectrum of insurance needs for the entire Rocky Mount area.
It also became obvious to them that they had outgrown our existing office location. Standard began construction of a new office building on Franklin Street in March of 1979, and moved in to the new building in October of 1979.
At Stran's untimely death in July of 1979, responsibility for the agency was left to Stran's wife Betsy Strandberg and Howard H. Strandberg III, Stran's oldest son. Howard III began work in the agency upon graduation from college in 1977. Howard became president upon Stran's death and lead the company for 18 years. Stran's other son J. Buckley Strandberg, joined the agency upon graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1982. Howard assumed the internal operations duties and Buckley focused on sales.
In 1995, Standard acquired former Mixon Insurance Agency. This was the agency's first acquisition and improved the quality of insurance companies represented.
In October of 1997, Howard III resigned to pursue other business interests. J. Buckley Strandberg became President and Kim Bletsas was promoted to Secretary and Office Manager.
In 1998, Gus Tulloss joined the team at Standard Insurance.
In 2000, J. Buckley Strandberg completed the stock purchase of the other two shareholders to become the 100% owner of the corporation.
In 2001, John T. Smith joined the agency as a partner, and opened their Wilson office. During that same year, Standard purchased the building where its corporate office resides today at 1000 Benvenue Road.
In 2006, William H. Pitt, III– AIC, SAKU joined Standard as their third partner, and opened their Wilmington office.
In 2008, Georgia "George" Wojcik joined the agency and helped get the new Nags Head office off the ground.