A father of 10, the late Joseph P. Colligan founded an insurance business, Colligan & Company, at the start of the Great Depression. Amid other financial roller coasters, most notably the 2008 housing crisis, his business continues to thrive 84 years later.
If he had to name one reason the company has lasted so long, Stan Colligan, current owner of the company after joining his father's business in 1967, would say it is because they are careful in the companies they endorse, including Progressive and Westfield Insurance. He said the companies must be financially strong, pay their claims “and treat our people right.”
The company sells coverage for home, auto, business and life insurance, as well as health and annuities. Typically servicing residents in Fort Wayne and surrounding areas, Colligan will occasionally sell insurance out of state.
To give an idea of Colligan's long-standing history, a typical auto policy in 1929 was $10 to $15 a year, whereas a current year-long policy on a 2011 Mercury Grand Marquis averages $750. Stan Colligan said that when his father began the business “not everyone had cars … and what business there was had a tough time.”
His father's initial location was at the corner of East Lewis and South Harrison streets, no longer an intersection. Here, Stan Colligan would clean coal bins. He later worked as janitor at their second location on South Clinton Street, across from Cathedral Square. Their current, 4,000-square-foot location has been at 3737 Lake Ave. for the past 31 years. The building is currently for sale, but Stan Colligan says he has no intention to relocate.
There's been little turnover since the business's early days, and three of the current 10 employees have stayed for over 30 years. One employee, Joel Hyde, 33, joined Colligan as an insurance agent in 2006 after working five years for Allstate Insurance. Hyde said the majority of his new clients join through referrals, and a few through previous radio ads and signage.
“Referrals are our bread and butter,” added Stan Colligan. One recent handout offered a free car wash and gas card to clients who referred friends or family.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Stan Colligan earned the titles of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) in 1975 and Certified Insurance Counselor in 1980. Hyde obtained his CPCU in 2007.
As he did for the company's 80th anniversary, Stan Colligan said he plans to host an 85th anniversary party for clients sometime next year, probably in the summer.