1964. The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the first G.I. Joe action figures hit the market, Ford introduced the Mustang, Tim Hortons made a donut, and Creston Valley Insurance Services Ltd. emerged from Monarch Acceptance Ltd.
Owner Doug Kinney and family operated the company, first located at 1215 Canyon Street, a building that featured a walk-in concrete block vault. When the Kinneys retired in 1980, Creston Valley Insurance Services was purchased by a group of four: Carvil Moorey, who owned Anderson Insurance Agencies Ltd. in Castlegar; his wife, Barbara Pierson; her brother, Roy; and Anderson Insurance employee Lee Johnson, who was born and raised in Nelson.
In 1982, Lee and Debby Johnson bought the business and relocated to Creston, with Kathy Huscroft as their sole employee. In the following year, the agency was selected as Motor Vehicle Branch appointed agent for driver’s licensing and related services for the Creston Valley area.
The Johnsons operated by their “golden rule” — relationships with staff and clients were given priority over sales or profit motives. That philosophy was immediately successful and the company entered into a period of rebirth and growth, focusing on one-on-one service. If it was a more costly model, it positioned the company as a good place to work and do business. Staff appreciated that their work also contributed to the betterment of their community.
Soon CV Insurance, as it was commonly known, outgrew its premises and new space was acquired at 910 Pine Street, across from what was once the RCMP station. The staff grew to five to accommodate the increase in business.
An insurance broker being located across from the police station doesn’t make it immune from crime. In the late 1980s, it was targeted by burglars, who damaged the antique 900-pound safe in a futile attempt to find money. Well protected inside were documents kept safe from fire, and a valuable supply of licence plate decals. In response, the Johnsons purchased an 1,800-pound antique “Big Bertha” safe and installed a new high-tech monitored alarm system.
It was during a snowstorm in December 1992 that Creston Valley Insurance undertook its next move. Newer and larger premises at the Creston Valley Mall became its new home, a location with high traffic and convenient parking that proved to be a winner with customers. With a reputation for quality services and products, another expansion was undertaken in 1997, with office space next door added. At that point, the business utilized 3,000 square feet of space and had 10 full-time employees to handle the ever-growing customer base.
By 2004, when Creston Valley Insurance celebrated its 40th anniversary, 12 employees worked to provide a steady community influence and reliable source of insurance and licensing products for the Creston Valley and East Shore.
In 2007 the agency was sold to Growth Financial Corp., a company owned by credit unions in Creston and Castlegar. Thanks to a supportive board, which recognized the values and commitment that the agency has always held, it remains locally managed, with longtime employee Susan Zimmerman overseeing a staff of a dozen, and the commitment to community has never been stronger.
“We earn our money here at home, and we spend our money here at home,” said Zimmerman. “What’s good for the our community is good for Creston Valley Insurance.”
Sponsorships are many — bike rodeos, PARTY (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth), scooter safety programs — and so are donations — Creston Rotary Splash Park, Relay for Life and Canyon Park rodeo, to name only a few.
“We try to keep our dollars within the community,” Zimmerman said.
“Because we are the appointed agent for motor vehicles, when new residents move in from out of province or out of town, we get to meet them,” she said. “And with 50 years in Creston, we are multi-generational, now serving the children of longtime customers. We see them through all stages of life, from their first driver’s licence to vehicle insurance, home insurance, life insurance, business insurance — it’s a wonderful experience to see them progress through life. We grow very strong attachments, and appreciate being able to share so many milestones with our clients.”
The face of the agency, the staff, is comprised mostly of longtime Kootenay residents who have a combined 155 years of experience in the insurance business.
“The experience is there — and they are the greatest bunch to work with,” said Zimmerman. “As a team, we strive to offer our clients the service they deserve and have come to expect from Creston Valley Insurance. We would like to thank the community for the support that they have given us over the last 50 years.”
Creston Valley Insurance will celebrate its 50th anniversary July 31, and all are invited to visit the office on that day — or the Creston Valley Fall Fair on Sept. 11 and 12 — so Susan, Donna, Glenda, Sheila, Jeff, Lara, Monika, Darlene, Natasha, Shelley, Zorne and Carol can thank everyone personally.