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A Family Affair

Three generations of the Jankowski family drive business

March 23, 2008
By Richard Nilsen, The Leader-Herald
BROADALBIN — Three generations of Jankowskis are insurance agents, and that number could go to four.

The Jankowski Agency was started in 1949 when John W. Jankowski, now 91, began working out of his 14 First Ave. home as a real estate broker.

In 1956, John and his wife, Natalie Jankowski, became licensed in insurance.

Insurance, however was not a part of the Jankowskis’ original plan. It was real estate they were focused on.

“It was a difficult time,” John Jankowski said. “People didn't have much.”

They persevered, however, and were able to support their family. When they decided to add insurance to the business, it was initially as a value-added service to their real estate customers.

When car insurance became mandated in 1957, John and Natalie saw an opportunity and took on both auto and home insurance.

Their son, Jim Jankowski, said he got some “encouragement” from his father to join the agency at age 25 in 1969. At the time, the office was located in their home, allowing Jim to work where he grew up.

“It was an interesting experience,” he said. “We were still working out of the home that I grew up in, so it was puzzling — should I be helping Dad with the lawn or should I be selling insurance?”

A short time later, the business moved to 7 W. Main St. Jim’s wife, Diane, would become licensed in 1997 and also work at the agency.

Both of the couple’s sons — David and Steven — studied insurance at Pennsylvania State University. David became licensed in 1991 and joined the business for a third generation of Jankowskis. But it looked as if Steven would go a different direction as he worked in financial services on Wall Street for 10 years, then in the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

So While Jim and Diane were happy to have one of their two sons in the family business, it would come as somewhat of a surprise when both wound up there. Just last year, Steven completed the family circle by joining the family agency in July.

"Diane and I had hoped that one of the boys would want to join us, but you never know where their paths will lead them," Jim Jankowski said.

Diane Janikowski added, "We figured the idea of Steven coming back to work in the family business were very slim at the time.".

These days the agency is totally insurance with no real estate component, although Jim says he still has his realtors license.

"In the 1970s there was a sudden upsurge in realtors," Jim Jankowski said. "I think there was about one realtor for every 300 people in the county."

Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Wally Hart said the long term businesses with several generations is something he is proud of.

"There are so many companies like that," Hart said Wednesday. "Jim Jankowski has always been a big supporter of the chamber. It's great when a family carries on with a business and with new ideas. I'm proud of them."

Hart said the Jankowski story is a great one, and it's the kind of thing the chamber likes to recognize.

"They are the kind of company we want to keep in the area," he said. "They are a prime example of staying power."

Broadalbin Village Clerk Sheila Bleyl said the village had worked with Jankowskis and she gets her personal insurance from them as well.

"We've had a good working relationship," Bleyl said. "They've always been very helpful. The family is also very involved with the community."

John Jankowski is now 91 and ended his active role with the company in 1985.

"I just started it," John Jankowski said Thursday. "They built it up."

All the Jankowskis are licensed insurance agents, and Jim Jankowski said none of the family ever felt like they needed to leave for another career once they started. As for the ups and downs of the national economy, Jim Jankowski said the local economy seems somewhat insulated from those effects.

"We never really feel it," he said. "Insurance is more complicated today. There is more paperwork involved with multiple risk."

David said there is one aspect of insurance that many people had a misconception about.

Insurance isn't 'hedging your bets' as some see it," he said. "It is more of a way to make you whole after something happens. It is a way to let you sleep at night."

David and his wife have a son, Joshua, 5, and daughter Kailey, 3. Steven and his wife have a daughter Zofia, 3. With those children, the Jankowski family has the potential for another generation to enter the family business. David said he wouldn't be surprised if they were the fourth generation of Jankowski Insurance Agents, although it may be awhile.

The Jankowski Agency is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. For more information call 883-3415.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald.com.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Jankowski family members talk with each other in the insurance agency’s Broadalbin office. From left are Natalie, Diane, John, David, Steven and Jim.

 
 

 

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