Uniting Families

Two Local Insurance Agencies Merge

Local insurance providers Rhoe B. Henderson and Lawley Insurance are now a merged agency known as Lawley and Rhoe B. Henderson. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Rhoe Henderson of Rhoe B. Henderson and Walter Gotowka of Lawley, two family-owned insurance providers, are now partners and are looking to continue success not only in Jamestown, but beyond city limits too.

“We we’re looking to expand into the Jamestown market and I said, ‘there’s only one phone call that I’m going to make. And that was to Rhoe,” said Gotowka, a Lawley partner.

The newly merged business will be known as Lawley and Rhoe B. Henderson. The two agencies celebrated the merger inside the National Comedy Center, a client of Rhoe B. Henderson, on Wednesday.

Henderson and Gotowka have known each other for 35 years and for the both of them the merger just made sense. After the phone call last June, the two had lunch to discuss the possibility of a partnership.

The conversation the two insurance providers had resulted in a merger deal that was put on the table months after they met. Since then, the logistics of combining the two agencies were figured out.

“We’re hoping to continue Rhoe’s success within the community, and his volunteerism in the community and we’re hoping to grow the branch,” Gotowka said.

Henderson, who was on the receiving end of the phone, was “delighted” when he answered the call and discovered it was Gotowka.

Roe B. Henderson is a fourth-generation business that began 92 years ago by Henderson’s grandfather. Henderson has now been in the insurance business for more than 40 years. Now, Henderson’s son, Christopher, is working in the family business, continuing the tradition.

Henderson described Lawley as a family-owned “class organization” and a top 20 family-owned agency in the country.

“They bring an awful lot to the table,” Henderson said about Lawley. “We’ve got a great staff and group here, but we were limited to the markets that were going to made available to us.”

Lawley intends to keep on all of Rhoe B. Henderson’s staff in Jamestown. In fact, Lawley has brought on two additional employees at the local branch. Lawley, in total, is comprised of almost 500 employees.

“We just think Jamestown has a lot to offer,” Gotokwa said of expanding to the city and partnering with the local agency. “We’re standing in the comedy center which is a multi-million dollar building, and how wonderful it is. But Jamestown’s got a lot of wonderful people,” he said. “There’s a lot of nice businesses here. There’s a beautiful lake we love coming to. We just thought it was a great opportunity for us and the partnership with Roe just made it even better.”

Henderson elaborated that the decision to partner with the larger Lawley company was economically logical. He said the the Jamestown-based agency was already in the market to partner with a larger insurance agency.

“It’s becoming harder and harder for smaller agencies to operate on their own and then Wally’s (Gotowka) call came out of the blue to tell you the truth,” Henderson said. “Although I heard of (Lawley), I didn’t know the other organization as well as I knew Wally.”

When the two agencies began taking negotiations serious, Henderson said the plans were constructed over the course of six months.

For Henderson, and his family business, the partnership only opens the scope for what the agency can offer.

“We can do all kinds of crazy stuff that we could never do before,” he said.

Because Chautauqua County is “small,” as Gotowka described it, he said the two have “bumped into one another” during the last 35 years of business. But Gotowka said there has never been a conflict because Henderson has remained a “gentleman” throughout.

“We’re really looking forward to moving forward up the ladder,” Henderson said. “We have a lot more arrows in quiver than we’ve ever had before so we’re ready to fly.”