HUNTINGDON - The Jack M. Shuck Agency has had many owners and many names over the years, but the agency founded by Albert Owen has been a staple of the downtown Huntingdon business community for 150 years.
The business began Aug. 5, 1862, when Owen, a newspaper editor, printer and former county superintendent of schools, was appointed as an agent for the Hartford Fire Insurance Co.
The agency was sold many times as William DeArmitt, Lewis Royer, J. Clyde Port, Mary B. Stewart, Shuck, Stanley Cipar and now his son, Andrew, have owned the business over the years.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Andrew Cipar, president and owner of the Jack M. Shuck Agency in Huntingdon, talks with Penny Shope, a customer service representative, at the insurance business at 427 Washington St.
The business went under the names of J. Clyde Port Agency and James C. Morgan Agency before becoming the Shuck Agency in 1969.
The agency has always been an independent agency, said Andrew Cipar, who joined the company by taking over its Bellefonte office - the Kline Agency - in 1986 before acquiring the business from his father, who had worked for Shuck since 1958, and purchased the business in 1982 upon Shuck's retirement.
"We have kept the name Shuck Agency because it was an established name in the community," Cipar said.
There are advantages to being an independent agency.
"We are free to represent anybody; we can move business from Company A to Company B. As an independent, we can find the best fit for our customers, we have more than one choice," Cipar said. "You may have your car insurance with one company and your homeowners with another or we can combine them."
The Shuck Agency works with many insurance companies but does the bulk of its business through about a dozen companies.
"A lot of companies have come and gone; there are a lot we have represented for years such as Hartford and Mutual Benefit. We have been an agent for them since the 1980s. We have been an agent for Ohio Casualty for over 50 years; it is now owned by Liberty Mutual," Cipar said.
The Shuck Agency has had a good relationship with Mutual Benefit Group.
"They know us and we know them. This business is very relationship driven. Their headquarters are in Huntingdon so if we have a problem, we can resolve the issue very quickly," Cipar said.
Steven C. Silver, Mutual Benefit Group president and CEO, said the Shuck Agency is one of their best agency partners.
"The agency, under Andy Cipar's excellent leadership, consistently provides our company with excellent policyholders. Shuck Agency provides excellent support and service to their clients. Consequently, this agency has been a frequent member of our prestigious Inner Circle that rewards agencies that produce and retain consistently profitable customer growth with MBG," Silver said. "I speak for everyone at MBG when I say we are blessed to enjoy the partnership of the Jack M. Shuck Agency."
The Shuck Agency is known for providing quality service.
"We provide good service. The industry has turned insurance into a commodity," Cipar said.
"You have to set yourself apart by providing good service and be there when someone needs you rather than have them calling an 800 number."
Technology has made a big difference in providing that good service.
"When I started we typed the policies, they were all handled through the mail. You would mail them and wait. Now almost everything is done electronically and is immediate. If you need to change policies and have questions about billing, it is all online," Cipar said. "Technology has had an impact on our efficiency in a positive way. We do more with fewer people."
Maintaining a competitive edge is the biggest challenge facing the agency, especially when consumers are bombarded with ads from companies like Safe Auto and Geico.
"You can purchase insurance online or through other avenues, but what you don't get is personal service and have someone explain what best fits your needs. We help you decide what you actually should consider having. They are offering car insurance that is pretty standard. Getting a good price is important, but coverage is also important. If they do not take care of what you need, it isn't very good," Cipar said. "You should form a relationship with an agent who is looking out for your best interests and is familiar with your circumstances. It is a relationship business - the better relationship you have with your agent, the more they pay attention to what you need."
Remaining in business for 150 years is quite a feat, Cipar said.
"It is a testament to all of my predecessors who worked hard and were knowledgeable in the business and did what they had to do to adapt," Cipar said.