‘It’s like family’ at Housatonic Valley Insurance
Published 7:42 pm, Wednesday, December 7, 2016
When it comes to protecting yourself, your health, your possessions and your loved ones, insurance plays an integral role.
Enter Housatonic Valley Insurance in New Milford, which offers personal, commercial, health and life insurance.
Brad Kamp and Sharon Chamberlin are partners at the 85-year-old business at 6 Main St., overlooking the historic Village Green.
“We’re big enough to handle whatever need you have, but we are small enough that we have relationships with clients,” Kamp said.
The business partners merged their agencies — Chamberlin coming from Chamberlin & Cats in town and Kamp of HVI — Jan. 1 of this year, following the retirements of Brad’s father, Bill, at HVI and Joe Cats, who was a longtime business partner with Chamberlin.
“We had so many things in common,” Chamberlin said of why the decision to merge made sense. “We just fit.”
Chamberlin and Kamp worked as a cluster — independent agents whose premium volumes are combined as though they are one entity, enabling agencies to have access to carriers that might otherwise be more difficult to gain an appointment on their own — for a few years prior to the merger, but the cluster dissolved when they officially joined forces this year.
They decided to keep the name Housatonic Valley Insurance because of its history in town.
“They’re local,” said Rob Carlson, who has been a HVI client since he turned 16 and got his license. His father, Edward Carlson, had been a customer since HVI opened in 1931.
Carlson said whenever he stops in the office, he is greeted by his first name and a smile. “It’s like family.”
He describes the business and the staff as “professional” and “respectful.”
“Customer service is the most important thing for us,” said Kamp, who grew up in New Milford and holds a business degree. “Like any business, we want to grow, but we want to keep our customers happy.”
The agency offers policies with Hanover Insurance, Kemper Insurance, New London County Mutual, Utica National, Progressive, Foremost and American Commerce Insurance Company.
In addition, the agency writes bonds.
“I find it interesting that I get to talk to all kinds of people,” Kamp said of why he enjoys the business and has remained involved in it since joining in 1998. “Everybody is different.”
“We’re not selling a product that fits everyone,” he said.
That’s one of the big factors that differentiates their agency from a large carrier.
“When you come here, your individual insurance needs may not fit into an underwriter’s policy,” said Chamberlin, who had been a partner at Chamberlin & Cats since 1994.
At HVI, Kamp, Chamberlin and their staff explain the policies to clients in layman’s terms, and work directly with an underwriter to explain unique cases and customize a client’s policy.
Chamberlin, who at 16 began working in the industry, emphasized most of the agency’s business comes from referrals and new residents looking for an agent closer to home.
Chamberlin and Kamp, who each have roots in the community, brought their own clientele to the agency.
“We might have merged, but we structured it so Chamberlin & Cats clients still talk to the same people and HVI clients do, too,” Kamp said, noting there is a little crossover.
Kathy Diemer, of Sherman, is a longtime customer, having first been a client with Chamberlin & Cats.
“As a licensed auto damage appraiser, I saw firsthand the importance of good insurance,” Diemer said.
“I also understood that your insurance was only as good as the company representing you, which is why working with a local agent has always been a top priority for my husband, Ged, and I,” she said.
Diemer said she appreciates working with a local agent because it allows her to “stop by and speak to a person who knows who you are and what your situation is.
“You’re not a one-in-a- million person at a 1-800 number, which is especially important when you have a tragedy and need help and support,” Diemer said.
“When we lost our home to a fire in 2015, not only did we have the best coverage available, but our agent was there to guide us every step of the way,” she said. “You can’t put a price on that.”
Kamp and Chamberlin said they like being a part of the community and giving back to the community in which they live and own the business.
Kamp is a member of the Rotary Club, a member of the MVP-SOS board of directors, an ice hockey coach with Northwestern Connecticut Youth Hockey, a 15-year volunteer for the Village Fair Days 8-Mile Road Race, and is a former board member at the New Milford Youth Agency.
Chamberlin, a resident of New Milford since 1989, has been an active volunteer for New Milford Public Schools’ Band Parents and BandAides organizations, and has been for the past 14 years, supporting the band and music programs. She is a past volunteer for senior fishing derbies and ensuring local seniors are taken to the Memorial Day parade.
For information about Housatonic Valley Insurance, call 860-354-5551 or visit hvinsurance.com.. Agents are available 24-7. Brad Kamp, Sharon Chamberlin and Bill Kamp, who is a consultant for HVI, are notaries.