Too often, consumers hear commercials about insurance for a low price but for one St. Augustine insurance company, the goal is the quality of its service instead of the quantity of its customers.
Herbie Wiles Insurance stands on Ponce de Leon Boulevard not too far from downtown St. Augustine. Established in December of 1961, the company has been around for more than half a century.
Herbie Wiles, founder of the agency, recalled starting from the ground floor almost 53 years ago.
“The first policy I wrote was for my own car so the only money I made was the commission on the car which, I don’t know, was maybe 20 percent back in those days. But that’s how I started, by myself,” Wiles said.
Writing that policy may have come as naturally as breathing for Wiles, who is the second of a three-generation family of insurance agents.
Randy Wiles, Herbie’s father, was the first insurance agent in town, he said.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Herbie Wiles became an insurance agent with State Farm, but it was in 1961 that he stepped out on his own, found a little house on Cordova Street and started the firm he operates now.
Since then, the company has grown and expanded, and Wiles’ son, Doug Wiles, became a part of the family tradition and joined the insurance agency.
Over 50 years later, some things have changed in the insurance business.
“I’ve seen an awful lot of change in the way people purchase insurance and how it’s sold and the service,” Herbie Wiles said. “We had a good relation when I started with insurance agents. Most of had been established and well-run by the time I started, but we were friendly competitors and I kind of miss that.”
While things are changing around the Wiles agency, there’s one thing the company intends to see stay the same — the quality of its business.
“There’s an awful lot of trust that goes along in our business, and I think there’s an expectation by our clients and our customers that we’re going to be there for them and provide an appropriate level of service and we think that it goes beyond just peddling an insurance policy, issuing the policy. There’s more to it than that,” Doug Wiles said.
For the company, it’s about more than just selling insurance.
“Insurance is a service. If you buy anything else, a blouse, a car, shoes, you pay for it and you get something to take home. When you buy insurance, there’s nothing to take home so if you stop and think about it, any insurance, whether it’s health, life, property and casualty, it’s nothing you can touch. The only thing we have, basically, to sell is service,” the elder Wiles said.
Both father and son are hopeful that their business will continue to help and insure the people and businesses of St. Augustine.
Doug Wiles said that if Florida and St. Augustine continue to do well, then the business will prosper with them. But if things lag, the firm will be there to help pick up others.
“We hope to enjoy the benefits of an improved economy just like every person and every business, but we also believe it’s more than just relying on somebody else to do that,” the younger Wiles said. “So as St. Augustine and St. Johns County needs a little help or those that live here do, we’re here to help everybody’s boats to rise a little bit so that we all do a little better.”
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