Family business brings Nickel back homeWORTHINGTON — As a child, Jeff Nickel would lend a helping hand cleaning his parents’ office at Nickel and Associates. Some 20 years later, Nickel is now one of the four insurance agents for the family business located on North Humiston Avenue.
WORTHINGTON — As a child, Jeff Nickel would lend a helping hand cleaning his parents’ office at Nickel and Associates. Some 20 years later, Nickel is now one of the four insurance agents for the family business located on North Humiston Avenue.
“We moved to Worthington when I was 3,” he said. “My dad (Jim) grew up north of town, and my mom (Deb) grew up here in Worthington. They moved to Madelia but we came back here when dad purchased the agency in ’82.”
Growing up with two older brothers — Trevor and Chad — Nickel remembers spending most of his time with them playing golf at the Worthington Country Club and playing hockey.
“We all got along fine and we still do because we have a lot in common,” he added.
Life after high school
After high school, he enrolled at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. He transferred to South Dakota State University to pursue a major in agriculture business.
“I didn’t finish with that,” he said. “I went into computer programming and earned a degree from St. Cloud Technical College.”
Armed with his knowledge in computer science, Nickel set out into the Twin Cities area in search for jobs.
After not having much luck finding work as a computer programming job, he stumbled upon a different type of job in North Branch. Ironically, it was as an insurance agent.
“Insurance was all I knew growing up. My whole life revolved around it, and it wasn’t a bad thing,” Nickel said. “It was my intention to come back after high school, but Dad would never let us come straight back.”
Starting a family
Within the four years of being away from home, Nickel had started a family of his own, too. He married his hometown sweetheart, Tina. The couple welcomed the birth of their daughter, Jaden, in 2004.
“Jaden was born with congenital heart defect. We spent eight months of her first year in the hospital at the University of Minnesota,” he explained. “That’s when we realized how important family was. It was just the two of us there with her. With Jaden’s history, moving home closer to family was important to us.”
Two months before the arrival of their second child, Spenser, Jeff and Tina relocated back to Worthington.
Back at work
Moving home to work for his father’s company was completely his decision.
“Dad never told us we had to work for him,” he added.
“One brother does not work here and he could never imagine sitting behind a desk,” he went on. “You give him a motor and he can tinker with it to make it work. I can’t.”
Working for an independent insurance company is a welcome change for Nickel.
“I worked for American Family in North Branch,” he said. “Instead of having one insurance company, here we have multiple companies. Every company does things a little different.”
While each company has various policies, Nickel explained that he enjoys being able to “shop” with customers.
“I prefer working at an independent company because when someone comes in for a policy, I don’t have to say, ‘Here’s your quote’ and that’s it,” he added.
Since relocating to a new location on North Humiston, Nickel and Associates has enjoyed more walk-in customers.
“We were on Fourth Avenue when Dad first bought the agency,” Nickel said. “We still have a lot of existing clients who’ve been with us for 30 or 40 years. Essentially, I’ve moved back to a family business.”
Nickel and Associates was formerly H.I. Metz Agency, which was founded in 1921.
Nickel continued that the company has three other agents — his father, Jim; brother, Trevor; and another agent, Bill Reum.
“Mom helps here part-time too,” he said. “Dad comes in at 6:30 every morning. I don’t know if he’ll ever retire.”
“Until today, I try to have the same work ethic he does,” Nickel said about his father. “Things won’t get done by itself, and you’ll just have to keep working.”
A love for hockey
Nickel has been a part of the Worthington Hockey Association since he’s been back.
“I played hockey all through high school,” he added.
With Chad and Trevor, all three of the Nickel brothers are involved in coaching.
“This is my fourth year coaching Mini Mites,” he detailed, adding that practice sessions are twice a week. “It’s definitely fun to see them grow.”
Upon moving home, his older brother was already involved in coaching hockey, Nickel said.
“He was looking for help and I had no problems helping. My other brother started helping as well,” he said. “Helping out with the little kids is definitely one way to give back to the community.”
Apart from coaching Mini Mites, he also assists his brothers with the Mites.
“I play hockey on Wednesday nights with the old timers. I spend too much time at the arena,” he joked.
Nickel’s 5-year-old son, Spenser, has caught on to the sport his father loves.
“I’d always hoped that he would want to play hockey,” Nickel said, adding that Spenser started playing at the age of 3. “We thought it was a little early, but he loves it. Every Monday night, he’s ready at the door when it’s time for hockey.”
The Nickels have three children, Jaden, 8, Spenser, 5, and Tayler, 1. Daughter Jaden recovered well.
“She can’t play contact sports, but otherwise she’s a typical 8-year old, which is good,” he said. “She can’t play hockey, although she wants to, but she’s in a bowling league and is involved in 4-H.”
When he’s not at work, Nickel enjoys spending time with Tina and their children.
“I do a lot of hunting in the fall and ice fishing in the winter,” he said. “Every one in our family likes being outdoors, too, which is fine with me.”
While he still misses living near the Twin Cities and the friends he met there, Nickel said he’s happier in Worthington – the place he calls home.