Edwards Insurance continues customer-first mindset
Published 11:50 pm Sunday, April 3, 2016
On April 1, 1966, a new kind of insurance company was born in Washington.
Edward Ray Edwards Insurance Agency’s areas of property and casualty coverage were not new, but its mindset was — putting customer relationships above all else.
It’s what the agency has done for the past 50 years. Those bright-eyed 16-year-olds who stopped in for car insurance in the 1960s are now the retired customers who still stop by to say hello.
Edward Ray Edwards, the namesake of the agency, built his company from the ground up. Starting out at 232 W. Main St., and then moving to 117 N. Respess St. in 1976, Edwards became a well-known name and one that meant putting the customers first.
Edwards grew up in Chocowinity and still resides in Washington with his wife of more than 70 years, Eleanor. The two have one son, Stan.
“Both of us were kind of new to the insurance business back then, and we both kind of grew into it together,” said LaRue Alligood, a longtime employee and now the owner. “You just had to build from nothing, so that’s basically what we did. We started from nothing.”
Alligood said she still has fond memories of cooking in a kitchen in the back room at the Respess Street location, sharing meals with coworkers and inviting weekly guests to come join. Edwards treated everyone like family, employees and customers alike, she said.
In March 2002, Alligood took over the business upon Edwards’ retirement, gradually assuming responsibilities over a 10-year period, as his family had no interest in running it. Already a seasoned employee, it was a smooth transition. She also decided to move the business to its Highland Drive location in 2008.
“I pretty much knew what to do,” Alligood said. “The only thing that I did change was moving out here. Down there on Respess Street, I really had no parking or anything.”
The Highland Drive location was formerly a pharmacy, so Alligood said she utilized the built-in drive-thru for customers to make relatively quick transactions, such as policy payments. Other than that, however, she said Edwards built a strong business and she intends to keep it much the same, the name included.
“I don’t see the point in changing it, and I hope down the road it stays that way,” Alligood said. “We’ve tried to build our business on service. … That one thing he’s always emphasized was service with the customer. You had that contact during the year with that person.”
Alligood is continuing on the Edward Ray Edwards legacy, and she now has longtime, loyal employees of her own. More importantly, she said she still looks forward to coming to work every day, and as long as her health permits, she will continue to do so.
“I’ve never wanted to do anything else. … There’s always something new to learn,” Alligood said. “It’s just fascinating to see the different people you write the coverages for.”