Koele Inc. staff is excited to be celebrating 50 years in business. On Wednesday, Sept. 20, a free picnic supper will be served in Westside Park in Hull from 5-7 p.m. Door prizes will also be given away to help celebrate the occasion.
The enterprise began when Cliff Koele purchased his uncle Bart Soodsma’s insurance business on Sept. 6, 1967. The entire book of business was around $7,800. “Now we do that per hour,” Cliff said, laughing,
Soodsma continued working in the company for a few years and after about two years, Koele hired his first employee, Jan Bonestroo.
In the beginning, everything was written by hand on paper. Figuring life insurance proposalstook a lot of time. Soodsma thought his nephew was crazy when he bought a $500 adding machine. Koele laughed and said, “Uncle Bart held up a No. 2 wood pencil and said, ‘you can get these for 10 cents apiece’.”
The business’s first location was in the basement of Don’s Barber Shop (where Iowa State Bank now stands), but it often flooded and in 1968 they moved to the basement of Dr. Dittmer’s dentistry building (now theIndex-Reporteroffice). In 1970 Koele got into the real estate business and obtained his broker’s license in 1974.
Koele Insurance continued to grow and change. The business was restructured and they joined forces with De Koster Insurance, working out of De Koster`s building. They formed an associate agreement, swapped some insurance lines, and shared employees. “I sold out the property and casualty, and kept the crop insurance, life insurance and health insurance,” Cliff said in 1984. Later, De Koster sold out its insurance lines to ISB Insurance. Cliff, and Marlys, who later became his wife, continued to work with ISB for a year and then they both resigned. ISB then moved to their current building, and became competition.
The business was incorporated in 1979. In 1986 Koele took over the Modern Woodmen of America line. By 1989, he received his property management certification.
Marlys, has worked for the agency 35 years and is now an owner and president of the corporation. Although Cliff is mostly retired, he still attends monthly agency meetings and goes over reports in the evenings with Marlys. She added, “Cliff is the main shareholder of the corporation.”
The Koeles appreciate their staff. “I’ve got the best staff I’ve ever had. They’re very knowledgeable, client-oriented, and willing to learn,” Cliff said.
Marlys said, “They’re kind of like family.”
Marlys feels it’s important to keep their customers satisfied. “Your clients have to trust you,” she said. Deaths and tornadoes are never fun, but it goes with the business. Being there for clients when a claim situation arises is important. “That’s what an insurance agent is for — to kind of walk them through it, to get it all resolved, and put them back to where they started.” she explained. “It’s a really good feeling.”