By Erika Webb
Rumor has it that somewhere inside a downtown DeLand doll store are the vestiges of the Arthur Lane Agency Inc.
The idea intrigues Joseph "Barney" Lane, the third generation owner-operator of Lane Insurance, but what really interests, and deeply touches him, is the way generations of Volusians have offered their trust, faith and loyalty to his family for more than 100 years.
With time, the industry has changed but the goal at Lane Insurance remains the same.
Clients and employees are people. Value and worth have nothing to do with dollar signs.
When Mr. Lane's father Marshall suddenly passed away in 1986, Mr. Lane was only 28.
He and his sister, Betsy Horan, took over the business. Mr. Lane bought his sister's share in 2010.
"I was amazed at how many people in this community stuck with me and gave me a chance," Mr. Lane said. "It was kind of like, 'let's see if the kid can cut it.'"
"I tried to earn their trust," he added.
Considering the agency has expanded to include Lane Insurance for personal lines, Lane-Lennon Commercial Insurance, and Mr. Lane is now a certified planner with New York Life, it's safe to say he succeeded.
"We have been experiencing remarkable growth in our business because, as independent agents, we can be solution oriented," Mr. Lane said.
With so many "big box" insurers demanding assurances against claim payouts, Florida residents have found themselves jumping through hoops to comply. Once they've completed a seemingly endless to-do list many policy holders are abruptly dropped by their insurers.
That was the case for DeLand resident Francie Achterberg. Her home was built in the early '90s. The roof was 20 years old, but holding up just fine. Her insurer insisted she have some of the shingles replaced, though a new roof was the company's preference. She followed instructions and her policy was dropped.
Ms. Achterberg, like any responsible homeowner would, panicked. Her first instinct was to call someone she trusted. Personally and professionally she knew the Lane family. Her instinct paid off.
"They are good," Ms. Achterberg said. "Rayni is my rep and she is always on top of it. Shopping for better prices when renewals come around, helping me find homeowners insurance when I got dropped, sending me reminders, etcetera."
Rayni Goldthwait is one of 14 people employed between the firm's two offices. She and Christine Etts, Edgewater office manager/agent, handle personal lines.
"Rayni and Christine are great agents with very strong support staff around them," Mr. Lane said.
His sense of community extends to his role as employer.
"The staff all are on salary so their sole responsibility is to take care of the client," he said. "As a local company, I like the fact that I'm providing local jobs, and they're local good jobs. They're not just employees to me, they're part of the family and we support each other."
Mr. Lane said he's amazed at the marketing tactics of some companies, using repetition -- brainwashing might be another word -- to convince potential customers that calling a toll-free number will yield the lowest rates for insurance.
Lane Insurance promises, and delivers, customized choices and truly lower rates.
"Our clients are not locked in to a one-company-fits-all scenario. We represent more than 30 different companies so we can find a company to match each client. We'll find quality companies that want to do business in this area," he said. "We try to determine the need of our client and then we find the company that best fits the need."
Never resting on laurels, Lane agents are on the lookout for more companies to meet whatever unique needs their clients might have.
"We go looking for companies," Mr. Lane said. "Florida Family Mutual is just one example of many that has become a great company for us."
Recent years of economic turmoil and less than stellar customer service everywhere have taken a toll on people.
Mr. Lane said he sees the pendulum beginning to swing the other way, back to what he believes should be the standard, quality personal service.
"I want my client to come in and see me, sit in that chair, and I want to get to know them," Mr. Lane said. "It's personal. It's always been personal."
He appreciates his family's legacy and the history behind his day-to-day business existence.
Grandfather Arthur Lane, a Hartford Bond representative back in the early 1900s, traveled by barge from Jacksonville along the St. Johns River to visit insurance agents in little towns along the way. Mr. Lane's grandmother worked in Silas Wright's insurance office. The two met, married and bought the agency from Mr. Wright.
"My grandparents founded Arthur Lane Agency in 1907. They always believed in community service and helping their fellow neighbors," Mr. Lane noted on the company brochure. "They were dynamic leaders in the community as well as intensely devoted civic leaders, who believed in the people of this county. I have continued this tradition of service and strive to maintain the same high ideals that created this agency so many years ago."
Lane Insurance, Inc.'s DeLand office is at 838 E. New York Ave.
In Edgewater, the office is at 101 E. Yelkca Terrace, Suite A.
"It's been a very fulfilling career," Mr. Lane said. "Moving into financial planning invigorated me and inspired me to work even harder to help people plan for retirement and protect their assets."
"It's not about the money at the end of the day," he added. "It's about lives you've affected in a positive way. God knows how people have affected mine in a positive way."