Our Company History - In business for over 100 years
The beginnings of Gates-Cole Insurance go farther back than when Edward Gates and Eugene Cole got together to form what is the 10 location Independent Insurance Agency that serves thousands of Central New Yorkers. “Ed and Gene” carried on the legacy that was originally started by Frank Holmes in New Berlin, NY. In the late 1800’s a fire at a farm, house or business could devastate not only the original structure but any close neighbors by proximity. These were the days of plank roads and all frame structures with lots of wood stoves.
Frank Holmes decided he needed to protect central New Yorkers and started his own insurance company and copy the famous Ben Franklin concept of mutual insurance but added a couple twists to it. The original concept was to provide a central New Yorker a low cost alternative to stock companies. The two ideas were to receive the premiums up front before the claims happened and the other was to sell his policies through “independent” agents that represented numerous companies.
The time period was 1896 when he launched into business. Frank started a local mutual company and also an independent agency to represent not only his own “company” but also to represent other companies to spread the risk. A novel idea of an insurance guy way back then. Its also important to note he was a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music and also the Postmaster of New Berlin at the time.
In 1899, the concept of the independent agent with multiple carriers spreading the risk proved to be very beneficial to Frank and the central New Yorkers in New Berlin, NY. A fire spread on March 7th, fanned by high winds, spread and devoured the Opera house and 11 other buildings in downtown New Berlin, NY. This could have ended one company, but Frank had placed the risks and buildings with multiple companies and his agency and company survived. Even though they they had a catastrophic event they paid all the claims and even had a surplus of premiums with no assessment against its policyholders.
The Company survives today as a top regional carrier named Preferred Mutual and is still located in New Berlin represented by Frank’s original agency.
The original agency continued on for years under the management of the Holmes family. It continued the legacy of the independent agency model and grew as the needs of central New Yorkers grew. During this time period the gasoline engine was invented and many more modern day conveniences came to be what we take for granted today. The Agency went through world wars and international conflicts as well as our own dramas in the United States.
Gene Cole started his insurance career by working for Nationwide and then was brought back to his central New York roots by Doug Robinson the head of what today is NYCM Insurance. Named after the New York Central Railroad, NYCM is another company that has been protecting central New Yorkers since 1899. Gene Cole saw the importance of independent agents and sought to be one. The concepts of seeing his customers and serving their needs to protect what was important to them seemed appealing. In 1969, Gene Cole made an agreement with Lloyd Plumbley to purchase his agency Plumbley-Brown in Leonardsville, NY. Dixie Brown and Lloyd Plumbley had formed that company. In years following, Ed Gates of Gallinger and Gates Agency got together with Eugene Cole and merged to form the company that is now called… Gates-Cole Associates, Inc. or Gates-Cole Insurance. Later, the two made a perpetuation plan for the original Holmes agency in New Berlin, NY to carry on the legacy of Holmes Family.
Using some of the principles that made the agency successful early on they carried that formula to other local agencies and communities throughout the central New York Region. As the years have passed and the tradition of protecting central New Yorker has not changed, along with local personal service, Gates-Cole Insurance has grown through annual insurance reviews with their customers at the local level. Sitting down with insureds at their kitchen table or at the office seems to be the common thread of success that we are passionate about. Even though times have changed, the needs of being there when catastrophe strikes hasn’t.
Today, with ten locations to choose from, 40+ licensed agents, 100 carriers represented and over 400 years of combined experience, there is almost nothing we can’t help you protect. We still offer Fire insurance, Farm insurance and Homeowners insurance like we started with over one hundred years ago. We also offer car insurance, motorcycle insurance, boat insurance and motorhome insurance. We still insure horses and cows and all kinds of farms that we see today. We insure recreational vehicles, four wheelers, and all the toys that people have. Utility Tractors and side-by-sides can also be insured with us. Seasonal homes and camps seem to be popular with central New Yorkers and we cover them too. Personal Umbrella policies are also available to those that need additional protection once the need has been established.
Gates-Cole Insurance has evolved in the last 40 years to expand its expertise in insuring local towns, villages, municipalities, fire districts and other public entities that serve the public. It also has developed the expertise in protecting business owners with commercial insurance that includes package policies, commercial auto, workers compensation and disability. New areas that are emerging are Employer Practices Liability and Cyber Liability. One thing is for sure, as the world changes, and the risks change, we are there to provide solutions to protect and minimize the risk. Lots of areas of specialization to customize an insurance program that fits your needs. We provide you with choices by educating and informing you with the necessary information to help protect your interests.
The best part of the history of Gates-Cole Insurance is what gets passed down from one agent to another. The more experienced agents coaching and teaching the new agents the business. Teaching how to insure and protect the best way at the most affordable rates for our customers. Our people have been able and continue to evolve and change with new technologies and ways of doing business. Year after year we strive to improve our processes without sacrificing essential one on one contact. Our people have made Gates-Cole Insurance what it is today. You get the capabilities of a large national agency with all the hometown benefits of a local agency. We are committed to the central New York communities we serve.