Hawk agency makes 25 years as family business
BY MICHAEL J. RUDOLF
When Sherolyn Hawk founded the insurance agency that bears her name in 1986, she was hoping to have a successful business. She never thought it would be as successful as it has been for a quarter of a century.
“It’s just been wonderful, because I started out by opening the door and working day and night,” Hawk said.
Hawk no longer puts in the hours that she used to. But she is proud that the agency is now in the hands of her family.
“That’s precious. I’m really thrilled with that,” she said.
According to Robin Emmerich, Hawk’s daughter who heads up the agency’s Nicholson office, Hawk had been working for another agency when she decided to strike out on her own.
“She just decided one day to start her own thing,” Emmerich said.
Hawk hired Anita Cook to work in the office, and in May 1986 set up shop in along Route 6 in Tunkhannock Township, next to what was at the time the site of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
According to her daughter, Hawk faced some challenges with the new business.
“It was a male-dominated industry at the time, so it was quite a thing to do this,” Emmerich said.
Through her previous work, though, Hawk brought with her a good client base. She started with just one insurance carrier, Donegal Mutual, and was soon offering a number of insurance products.
“She jumped in with both feet,” Emmerich said.
About a year later, Hawk asked her son-in-law, Eric Emmerich, to join the business. He and Robin were living in Buffalo, N.Y., at the time, and were eager to return to Northeast Pennsylvania.
“We had a one-year-old, and it seemed it would be a lot better to raise a child here,” Eric Emmerich said.
Eric joined his mother-in-law in the Tunkhannock office and eventually took over the day-to-day operation.
A few years later, Hawk had the opportunity to acquire the Evans Insurance Agency in Montrose, a family business that had served Susquehanna County for more than a century.
Hawk’s son, Jeff Tyler, joined the agency around the same time. He was a perfect fit for the Montrose office, Eric Emmerich said.
“That worked out great because Jeff lived up there,” he said.
“The business really expanded because of his contacts,” Robin Emmerich said of her brother.
The business continued to grow because of the service it offered to local residents, Eric Emmerich said. By 2002, the agency was able to add to its clientele by purchasing the R.N. Price Agency in Nicholson.
Hawk tapped her daughter to oversee that office. Having a successful career in the advertising business, Robin Emmerich said it was something she didn’t expect.
“There are two things I vowed I’d never do: coach my own kid and join the family business,” Robin Emmerich said, noting that around the same time she landed the girls’ basketball coaching spot at her alma mater, Elk Lake High School.
The fact that the agency is family-run has an impact on the way the staff deals with clients, Eric Emmerich said.
“The key is getting back to clients quickly,” he said.
Robin Emmerich noted, for example, that last week when the area was struck by heavy snow and ice storms, they made sure they got to the office, ready to handle any weather-related claims.
“That’s when people have accidents and roof collapses,” she said.
Like her mother, Robin Emmerich said her role may lessen sometime down the road, but she and the rest of the family will likely be a part of the agency for years to come.
“We probably will never fully retire,” she said.
And recently, the third generation of family has become part of the agency, as Jeff Tyler’s daughter, Brooke Hayes, has joined the staff at the Montrose office.
“That’s the goal, to keep it a family-oriented business,” Eric Emmerich said.
He added that even the staff members who aren’t related are considered part of the family. Some of them have been with the agency nearly since the beginning. For example, Julie Benscoter, who handles commercial underwriting insurance, is a co-owner.
Hawk said when she looks around at the business, she realizes that her hard work has paid off.
“It’s been a fast and wonderful 25 years,” she said.