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For half a century, Strawn & Co. Insurance has survived and thrived despite U.S. economic downturns, half a dozen recessions, the oil crisis, housing crash, stock market crash, COVID crisis and ten different presidential administrations. Unlike many family businesses, Strawn & Co. Insurance has successfully weathered the storms that came its way. This month, the company, which is headquartered in McDonough will celebrate that success and a special historical milestone – its 50th anniversary. It was the year of the Watergate break in. President Richard Nixon, who would win a second term that November ordered development of the space shuttle. George McGovern won the democratic nomination for president, but lost to Nixon and the musical Grease made its Broadway debut. It was 1972, and W. Norman Strawn Sr. and his wife Kaye opened a small insurance agency in McDonough that served as a contractor for Nationwide Insurance.
Today, Strawn & Co. Insurance has five offices throughout Georgia serving more than 2,500 businesses and more than 5,000 families with their insurance needs. “We know its a big milestone for us,” CEO and son of the founder, Rusty Strawn said. “Our actual 50th anniversary is in January as my dad actually started the company in January of 1972. We recognize that unfortunately, a lot of businesses don’t make 50 years. A very small percentage make it to this point.“ A lot has to do with that we are in such a great community in McDonough and Henry County. South Atlanta has been so good to us. We’ve been very blessed and thankful to be part of this community for such a long time. We’ve also expanded our footprint into Locust Grove, Zebulon, Peachtree City and Warner Robins...We’re now approaching close to 40 employees.
The biggest difference for us over the years is we started out representing one single company. That was Nationwide. Today we represent probably more than 25 to 30 regional and national insurance companies. It really gives our clients choices.” Norman and Kaye Strawn opened for business at 63 Lawrenceville Street in McDonough, where Strawn & Co. Insurance remained until 2001, as it moved that year to 16 Hampton Street into the third oldest house in Henry County. Built in 1836, it’s a house with a history and Rusty Strawn tells how it was used as an infirmary during the Civil War and spared by Gen. W.T. Sherman’s Union troops who were burning their way through the South. Dr. Lewis McKamie Tye owned the house at the time and he made an agreement with the Union soldiers that he would provide medical services to the troops as long as they did not burn down his home.
Strawn is proud of his family’s business, his hometown and the five generations of family on both his mother’s and father’s sides who have called McDonough home. A native of McDonough, Strawn grew up riding his bike around town, fishing, hunting and playing golf. He was on the golf team at his school, McDonough Christian Academy, which is now Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. His team won the state high school golf championship his senior year and he earned a golf scholarship to attend Georgia Southern University. “I enjoyed playing golf down there, but while I had success playing golf, I never really considered it as a career,” Strawn said. “I always wanted to come back and work in the family business and just play golf as a recreational sport instead of doing it for a living.” No doubt, he could have turned it into a successful career, but today he enjoys the best of both worlds. He runs the family business and he travels on a national schedule for senior golf tournaments. He was named Golfweek National Senior Player of the Year for 2021. Strawn’s golf handicap is a zero.
After college graduation, Strawn came back home to join the family business in 1985. “I joined my dad right out of college and it’s really interesting that my dad didn’t allow me to partner with him immediately,” Strawn said. “He made me start my own agency the first seven years, so I guess he felt like I needed to understand the ins and outs of the business instead of just riding his coattails. About 1993, I guess he actually had enough confidence in me and we formed a partnership. At the time, we only represented one company; that was Nationwide. But also in the early 1990s, we started to add some employees and some key sales people. “Jay Mercer became our first what we call producer in 1993. We then added Steve Meyer, in 1999, and both of those employees are still with us today. Actually, Jay is our vice president of commercial lines insurance. Steve is our vice president of personal lines insurance. Both of them have been with us as very long term employees. That’s when we really started to take off in regards to growth. Things started to expand for us when we started representing multiple carriers...Another key employee is John Wadsworth, our company president.”
When Strawn Sr. retired in 2006, his son became president. In 2016, Rusty Strawn became CEO and named Wadsworth as president. Strawn’s mother, Kaye passed away three years ago. A new generation of family members has now joined the business. Strawn’s nephew, Bo Echols began working for Strawn & Co. Insurance three years ago and is in sales. He is the son of Strawn’s sister, Susan Echols. Anna, the youngest of Strawn’s three daughters has also joined the family firm. She is in commercial lines customer service. Strawn and his wife of 33 years, Jennifer, are also the parents of McKenzie and Taylor. McKenzie and her husband, Addison Price live in Denver, Col., where she works as a project manager for OX Creative. Taylor is an elementary school counselor at Woodward Academy in Atlanta. She and her fiancé, Carson Spears are getting married in June. Through the years, Rusty Strawn has been involved in numerous community organizations. He currently serves as president of the Flint River Council for the Boy Scouts of America. He sits on the Georgia Southern Athletic Board Foundation. Strawn chairs the board for United Community Bank South Atlanta. He is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he and his family are members of the First Baptist Church of McDonough where Strawn is a deacon and until last year, had served for 25 years as a Sunday School teacher for middle and high school students. On its website, the company states it is “proud to be one of south Atlanta’s oldest and largest independent insurance agencies.
Since 1972, we have sought to provide insurance needs for local families and businesses...Our mission at Strawn & Co. Insurance is to glorify God in all of our daily endeavors. We strive to provide exceptional value, the utmost integrity and excellence to our customers, our companies we represent and our community.” Reflecting on Strawn & Co.’s past 50 years, its CEO says there have been significant changes in the insurance industry. “The fundamentals behind insurance still remain relatively the same, however, the delivery to the customer has changed,” Strawn said. “With the Internet, a lot of people thought they would no longer need insurance agents or brokers. We’re finding that to be the opposite. Families and businesses need our services more than they’ve ever needed because they’re faced with more and more exposure in their lives than ever. And they need good counsel and good advice and we’re there for them. But technology has really helped us from being able to deliver our products and services a lot quicker to our customers and get answers to them a lot quicker...”
During this time of celebration, the company is compiling a big scrapbook, collecting memorabilia and sharing its photos and history on social media. Strawn & Co. is on Facebook, Instagram and Linked In. “If I had to say one thing, it would be that I’m just very thankful for our clients, our community and our friends who have made us what we are today,” Strawn said. “Without them, we would not exist. The Lord has just blessed us, blessed me, blessed our family and each employee. I have so much to be thankful for and I give Him all the credit, for sure.” Strawn & Co. offers insurance for auto, home, life, personal, commercial, business and trucking in addition to other services. For more information, visit the company website at https://www.strawninsurance.com.
By Beth Slaughter Sexton