WORTHINGTON -- Things have changed -- and yet stayed still very much the same -- at Demuth Agency, 1234 Oxford St. Bob Bristow recently took over full ownership of the insurance agency from Robert "Bob" S. Demuth, whose father, Robert J. Demuth, founded it in 1957.
"I started here in 1992 and started buying shares from him in 1994," Bob Bristow explained about the agency's perpetuation plan. "In January, I bought the majority and remaining shares. It was all planned. Five years ago, we sat down and agreed on a date the ownership would change. It's a plus for me and a plus for him, because he's selling to a partner and will continue to work here until retirement."
Even though a Demuth will no longer own the business, the name will continue to be Demuth Agency.
"For now, the name stays the same," Bob Bristow said. "It's been an established agency for 50 years. The name has a lot of recognition in Worthington, and that's a plus."
About the same time the ownership changed, the agency's longtime receptionist, Yvonne "Sissy" Winter retired after 40 years. To help fill that vacancy, Bristow's wife, Lori, came on board.
"Lori came on the first of the year as a fully licensed agent," Bob Bristow explained. "Now, everyone who works in the office is fully licensed to help our customers. We try to dedicate ourselves to providing extraordinary service to our customers. We want to develop long-term relationships with our customers."
After working for many years in auto financing, Lori was familiar with some aspects of the insurance business and also underwent extensive training for the change in occupation.
"'Learning curve' is an understatement," said Lori. "I went to school during November and December and passed all my tests, but I've still got a lot of questions. But I have two experienced agents here -- Bob and Bob -- who can answer those questions."
Although they have received a lot of teasing and warnings about husbands and wives working together, the Bristows have managed to pull it off without too many complications.
"She's a licensed agent, but she's also like the office manager," explained Bob Bristow.
"I honestly don't see a lot of him," Lori added. "I'm busy running the office, and he's busy doing other things. So far, so good."
The Bristows' daughter, Abigail, 4, occasionally spends some time in the office, too, and has created original artwork for her parents' office spaces.
And there's yet another Bristow in the mix. Bob Bristow's dad, Lyle Bristow, helps out part-time in the office and services some of the agency's clients.
Demuth Agency is an independent, full-service agency in both personal and commercial lines -- auto, home, flood, business, health, life, disability, farm, long-term care, Medicare supplements. The agency's major insurance carriers are Allstate, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Minnesota and Progressive, but they also offer insurance through many other smaller carriers. All the agents at Demuth Agency strive to keep abreast of policy changes and regulations.
"Our industry is changing a lot," said Bob Bristow. "It's getting more and more technical all the time, and you have to be very computer savvy."
There may be changes in ownership and personnel, but the Demuth agents stress that customer service has always been and will continue to be their No. 1 priority.
"I've been here for 30 years and will continue to be here," said Bob Demuth. "Nothing has really changed, and we invited our customers to continue doing business with us."
"We will carry on the tradition of this office, and it will service the community as it has for 50 years," added Bob Bristow.
Demuth Agency can be reached at 372-2105.