By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Tom Lynch was teaching Delray middle school students history and science, had his eye on continuing his own education at medical school and was measuring houses and taking photos for an independent insurance agency his father-in-law owned to make extra money.
He was a part-time employee at Plastridge Insurance Agency, a company founded in 1919 by two men from Vermont. Until the 1940s, the company’s phone number was simply the number one. The original office was located on Atlantic Avenue next to Cut 432.
It was early 1969 and Lynch was determined to go to medical school, but he was also determined to have a family— and escape the cold. So, he moved to Florida from Chicago and worked for his father-in-law.
“A lot of people end up in insurance on accident,” he said.
His father-in-law Paul Speicher purchased the company in 1949 from the family who founded it.
The agency was formed by Amis Plastridge and Pierce Brennan. It was known as Plastridge & Brennan Agency. In 1940, Plastridge turned the business over to his son, Robert. After a bad year of hurricanes from 1947-1948, the company was put up for sale and Speicher bought it.
When his father-in-law had a heart attack, it was Lynch running the business. He made it official by purchasing the company in 1974.
On Feb. 19, the company will celebrate its 100th anniversary. To commemorate the achievement, the company is donating $100,000— $10,000 to 10 nonprofits that the employees will vote on.
And after about 50 years at the helm as chairman and CEO, the business is still an independent insurance agency and family run. Lynch was joined by his two sons, Brendan and Connor.
The one Delray office has expanded to multiple offices in Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Stuart. The staff has grown from six employees when Tom first started out to about 100. Plastridge is licensed to do business in 30 states.
When he was starting out, it was a time where Delray didn’t have a major chain. All businesses were independently owned. There was no internet, so it was all about having a local connection to find your clients.
When people living in Boca didn’t want to drive up to Delray, Tom said he saw that as an opportunity to open an office in Boca.
“The key to our success is looking to where the future is,” he said.
Back then, it was all about providing insurance for the farming industry. Now, they write policies for condos, restaurants, breweries, small businesses and nonprofits. Their mix of clients are 70 percent commercial, 25 percent personal and 5 percent employee benefits. They also work with home and auto insurance policies.
And if you ask Lynch’s sons if they thought they would wind up working for their dad, the answer is no.
Brendan said he wanted to go into business, but what business was always up in the air.
His first taste of working at Plastridge was similar to his father’s. He would go out with a Polaroid camera and take photos of homes for inspection and help out around the office.
Now, he deals with policies for condominiums and restaurants as EVP of the company.
Connor, the company’s COO, joined his brother two years later. He, too, followed a similar path as his father. He wanted to be a doctor, one that worked with trauma or in orthopedics.
He spent years volunteering at Bethesda Hospital and with the Delray firefighters. He took a pre-med track in college at University of Florida and was on pace to go to medical school.
But when it came time to study for the medical school entrance exam, a professor told him to go work for his father.
Ultimately, he realized he wanted what his father did, a career that gave him a family oriented lifestyle. So, he too shifted into insurance.
“Dad never pressured us to come into the business,” Connor said.
But the brothers agree they are glad they made the decision to work at Plastridge.
“No day is the same,” Connor said. “It’s a cool career and industry. You learn all about how businesses operate and you are not always sitting behind a desk.”
And even though the business has grown over the years, its values are still the same.
“We operate like a mom and pop, but we are large enough to compete,” Connor said.“Honesty and community involvement is the core of how we do business.”