By Barbara Van Reed
O’Connor & Co. Insurance Agency moved its headquarters from Dudley to Webster last month, one of several changes the company has made in the last year.
Another is that Ryan O’Connor is now heading up the agency that his parents Dan and Karen O’Connor established in 1990.
Dan had a degree in economics from Westfield State and experience as an insurance agent, while Karen had been a real estate appraiser with a psychology background, making for a strong basis to set up the O’Connor & Co. Insurance Agency.
Pictured (l to r) Sue Costen, Renee Alicea, Theresa Bonner, Ryan O’Connor, Iris Bonin, Barbara Zurowski, Kelly Coffey and Rosa Galvin.
Now, three decades later, Dan and Karen are still actively serving their insurance clients, working remotely, while son Ryan manages the physical office at 135 Thompson Road. Dan and Karen remain the agency’s principals.
Ryan explains that the transition has been a natural for him. “I’ve been coming to the office with my parents since I was 4 or 5 years old; I grew up in the world of insurance.”
He seems confident, ready to manage the future of the O’Connor agency, which includes a deliberate expansion. The company last year acquired the Burnham and Nale Insurance Agency in Southbridge. In addition to Massachusetts, O’Connor Insurance has been licensed in Connecticut for 10 years, and in the last 12 months added licensing for New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine, with a vision to grow regionally.
Ryan recognizes the competitive nature of insurance. “You have to be good at sales, know what you are talking about. Some insurances, like auto and home, are mandatory, which makes it easier, but we are not just selling our policies, we are selling ourselves.”
He notes that customers at his agency can talk with him and his office staff personally, unlike customers of the direct writers, the national insurers. He does not name names, but it is insurers like GEICO and Progressive.
Agencies like O’Connor represent dozens of insurers and can find the best rates for their clients.
Barbara Zurawski, who joined the agency in 2015 as a representative, handles both personal and commercial lines of insurance. She is quick to mention that O’Connor writes policies for many of the local businesses, including restaurants, landlords, contractors, and private schools. She also notes that its agents can speak multiple languages: Spanish, Czech, Russian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese.
O’Connor Insurance had been located at 16 Village Way in Dudley for 20 years when it moved to Webster last month. “We had hired more people and outgrew the space,” said Ryan, anticipating more growth.
He concedes, however, that “the most important thing is to grow smart, not just blow up.”
The O’Connor family has always had close ties to its communities, involved with local charitable organizations and business associations. Dan serves on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Webster-Dudley.
Barbara Zurawski too, exemplifies the community spirit. She became the newest member of the Charlton Board of Selectmen in the May election, and after being a member of the Dudley Woman’s Club for many years, is starting up a similar group in Charlton.
Ryan sums up his personal vision for O’Connor with a smile: “I like people, I like our towns, I’m good with numbers. I’m going to perpetuate this for another 30 years.”