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Insurance agency stays in the family over 7 decades

Insurance agency stays in the family over 7 decades

February 12th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Business

Julie Smith/News Tribune Fred Vogel Insurance Agency located at the southeast corner of Monroe and High streets in downtown Jefferson City.

One family has operated Fred Vogel Insurance for 70 years.

Frederick “Rick” Prather, now 53, is the third generation of his family to head the insurance agency that his grandfather launched in 1947, in a building at 206 Monroe St. that now is part of the News Tribune Co.’s parking lot.

“I think there is an advantage of keeping that name,” Prather said. “It’s a very well-known name in Jefferson City and, in my opinion, a well-respected name as far as integrity goes.

“I just think that 70 years of having that (Fred Vogel) name speaks for itself.”

Fred Vogel was working for his father — Prather’s great-grandfather — at United Mutual Insurance, a life insurance provider at 308 Monroe St.

“Grandpa split off to start his own company,” Prather explained, because “he saw a need for property and casualty insurance” in addition to the life insurance policies.

Later, the company moved to, and operated for years from, a building at 301 W. High St. that was condemned in the 1970s to make room for the Truman State Office Building.

So Vogel bought the “Jack and Jill Store” building at 300 E. High St. and moved the insurance agency into the basement, facing Monroe Street.

It still operates from there, more than 30 years later.

Prather’s father, Charles Prather, took over the business from Vogel, his father-in-law, in the mid-1980s.

Rick Prather moved back to Jefferson City and began working for the family firm in 1994, then took over as head of the company in 2002.

“I was an assistant controller for (a meat) company in Lenexa, Kansas,” he recalled. “It was my second job in Kansas City after I’d graduated from Rockhurst (University).

“I loved the company, but I told my boss … I’m leaving and going home to take over my grandpa’s business.”

He kept that choice even after being told he was in line to become the meat company’s manager.

“It was a time in my life when I thought that settling down would be easier in Jefferson City,” Prather explained, noting there had been personal changes in his life “and my house had been broken into for the third time.”

He doesn’t remember his grandfather ever talking about his becoming a part of the family company when he was growing up.

“I did have a good sit-down with him when I was coming back,” Prather recalled, “and discussed the future of the agency.”

Charles Prather still goes to the office several times a week, Rick said, “and helps out with the staff, takes the mail and does the deposits and so forth.”

The most appealing part of the insurance business is helping others, he said.

“It’s not so much just trying to sell someone a product. It’s to see if we can save them money or give them more insurance or better insurance for their needs — especially on the commercial side, learning about (the needs of) people’s businesses.”

His agency runs about 60 percent personal coverages and 40 percent business, Prather said, which provides some balances when the economy is bumpy.

It’s also an independent agency that’s able to provide policies from a wide range of insurance companies, rather than being a direct-writer for one company.

“I’m sure there’s positives and negatives of every insurance agency around here,” Prather said. “I personally feel that we have a multitude of companies that we can go to to try to find the best fit and the best fit for the client.”

He’s proud of the services the company has offered “to our clients over the years and their dedication toward us — and I’d like to continue that in the future.”

Since 2007, Fred Vogel Insurance has expanded from one office to four and become the “Vogel Insurance Group” as it acquired Jefferson City’s West Side agency in 2007, Fulton’s Guerrant agency in 2011 and Columbia’s Stuart agency in 2015.

“Originally the idea to expand was to get more companies” for a greater variety of policies to sell, Prather said.

He said the biggest misconceptions are that the agencies make tons of money, rather than getting a percentage for each policy that’s written, and that his agency sells only one kind of policy instead of the variety it offers.

One of the hardest parts of running his business with its 17 employees is finding qualified agents to sell policies, Prather said.

“You have to pass a test and be ethical to be able to continue,” he said.

The competition among the community’s various agencies is friendly, Prather said.

Prather said his grandfather and Carl Vogel’s family — the long-time Coca-Cola bottlers in Jefferson City — had explored whether the two Vogel families were related. No certain connections ever were found.

No one has committed to the idea yet, but Prather hopes the next generation — one of his stepdaughters or nephews — will be interested in continuing the family business.

“I’d love to see the fourth generation keep it going,” he said. “It’s been in the family for this long, I’d like to see it continue.”

Address: 301 Monroe St.

Hours: 7:45 a.m.-4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Phone: 635-6101