Insurance agents Derek Wright, Mike Henry and Robert Scheffer have teamed up as new owners of Graham & Cook Insurance, a third-generation agency.
They will celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 1, at the agency, 11915 Kingston Pike, Farragut.
“The purpose of the ribbon cutting is to thank our customers who have been here for all this time, to send off [previous owners] Tommy [Cook] and Chuck [Graham] and thank them for the legacy they built and introduce to the Town of Farragut and the community myself, Robert and Mike as the new owners and the new era of the agency,” said Wright, a Farragut native and 1999 Farragut High School graduate.
“This agency is 60 years old,” he added. “It just changed hands about six months ago from the gentlemen who owned it for 25 years. [This is] the third time the agency has switched over, so we are entering into a new generation.”
Graham & Cook Insurance is a Tennessee multi-lines, independent insurance agency that serves families, individuals and businesses throughout the East Tennessee region, he said.
“Through integrity and experience we are actively dedicated to helping people find increased value and savings of insurance costs without exposure to the possibility of financial loss beyond means or interests,” Wright added.
The company carries insurance for automobile, homes, condos, apartments, boats, motorcycles, rental properties, businesses, commercial properties and life insurance, among others.
Cook and Graham sold the agency to Wright, Scheffer and Henry on April 3. The former owners had been with the agency for 35 years and 40 years respectively.
“They had purchased it from another gentleman 25 years ago,” Wright said.
Cook and Graham had “come to a point where they decided it was time to bring in new life, new energy to carry it to the next generation,” he added. “Insurance agencies are kind of unique in that your agency starts to mirror the agents that are here. Bringing
in two new people might help bring in
some new types of customers, maybe younger customers, and focus more on business insurance.
“We’re able to bring in a new segment of customers and some business insurance opportunities.”
The previous owners had not been focusing too much on business insurance, Wright added.
“They were doing everything they could handle at the time because this place is busy,” he said. “Tommy and Chuck had built such a great agency in size and scale and a healthy amount of premium, which literally means several thousand customers.
“When you have several thousand customers and two guys who have been doing [the job] for 40 years, it gets weary,” Wright added. “That’s where they approached me and Robert.”
Wright said Scheffer and he spent many years on the road covering East Tennessee.
The agency gave them an opportunity to “invest in their local community every day with their customers and businesses through charitable community events and to experience building a business with equity,” he added. “To me, it was very attractive to invest both in ministry and professionally in my community.”
Henry, who had been with the agency for 21 years, also became a partner.
“Mike has produced and written about half the premiums that are in this agency and spent 21 years working hard to build the book, along with Tommy and Chuck,” Wright said. “Robert and I come from the company-side background.”
Wright spent 13 years working for two companies, Infinity and Safeco.
Scheffer spent 20 years working for Selective Insurance and Allied Insurance.
“We bring a perspective of the carrier side, so where this agency represents companies, mine and Robert’s job was to promote our products with our companies and the agency sell it,” Wright said. “So now, we step over to this side of the desk and we’re now in the sales chair, trying to sell insurance for the companies we represent.”
The trio said customers can expect the same excellent service on which the agency has built itself, while selling more commercial, business and life insurance.
“The principal of the agency is Matthew 7:12,” Wright said. “Our foundation is to treat people the way we want to be treated … you really be their advocate.”
The office is open from 8:30 to 5 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, while it closes from noon to 1:30 p.m. those days for lunch.
It is open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday and closed weekends.