Now moving into its seventh decade as a family business, American Underwriters is the story of family and relationships that continue to exemplify the values of generations past; the values of integrity (walking our talk), and respect for all people.
In the Beginning
The year was 1953. Warren Pierce, former IRS auditor, began a small insurance agency and tax accounting practice at 6435 South Tacoma Way, just fifty feet from our present location. Later in the 50s, Warren was joined by his cousin, Clarence Rash, newly retired from the US Army. The cousins were both oriented toward accounting and soon lost interest in the insurance portion of the business, opening the door for Clarence’s son Skip to join the firm. It wasn’t long before Skip recognized the cousins’ disinterest. In 1967 he purchased Warren’s half of the insurance agency, and in 1968 accepted an offer he couldn’t refuse to purchase his father’s half. As the 60s came to a close, the second generation was behind the wheel and driving into the future.
The Second Generation
During the late 60s and the 70s a friendship was developing between Skip and an insurance company underwriter turned insurance agent named Jim Stay. Jim and Skip shared numerous interests outside of insurance, such as youth soccer, blueberry muffins, jazz and racquetball. In addition, they recognized in each other certain qualities and values that would seal the deal on their life-long friendship.
In the early 80s, Jim left his position in a downtown Tacoma insurance agency to step out on his own by opening an agency on Puyallup’s South Hill with his colleague, Celeste Yoder. Celeste’s health soon deteriorated to the degree that she could no longer function as an active participant. Jim formally acquired her share of the agency, and in 1985 merged his business with Skip’s. Together, they moved into the location that is currently our home (just two doors from where the agency was founded by Warren Pierce in 1953).
The Third Generation
Although they didn’t know it at the time, the new partnership between Jim and Skip would be the event that would launch the careers of our third generation. In the summer of 1988, Jim’s daughter, Lavonne, was welcomed into the firm, and then in 1990 his youngest son, Nick, also came on board. In 2000, Skip and Jim entered into an agreement for Lavonne and Nick to acquire 100% ownership of the company, opening the door for the exit of the second generation. In 2008, Jim’s oldest son, Jeff, joined the agency as a producer working out of Vancouver, Washington. All three of Jim’s children are now with American Underwriters, working to maneuver the agency into a future anchored firmly in the values indelibly stamped into the character of the firm by their predecessors: Integrity, Respect, Family Loyalty, and Sincere commitment to customers.