By Kitsey E. Burns
A local insurance agency is celebrating a big milestone having operated in Yadkinville now for 75 years. Ireland Insurance, located at 113 E. Main St., is a family-owned independent insurance company which has been run by members of the Brandon family since 1940.
Owner and President Mark Brandon said it’s more than just a job for him, it’s a real joy to come to work in the family business and something of which he is extremely proud.
The firm was founded by Nelson Ireland, a former principal of West Yadkin School, in 1940. Ireland’s wife, Jessie, was Mark’s great-aunt. When Ireland passed away at the age of 49, Jessie recruited her brother, Paul, Mark’s grandfather, to help with the business. In the late 1950s another partner, George Holmes, joined the company.
In the ’60s and ’70s while Holmes and Paul Brandon were out selling insurance, Paul’s wife, Sadie Gough Brandon, ran the office entirely by herself.
Paul and Sadie’s son, Tommy Brandon, began working for the agency after he graduated from college at Western Carolina in 1964, and in 1987, he bought out the entire company.
Mark Brandon joined his dad, Tommy, in the family business in 1996 and took over majority ownership in 2007.
“It’s personal here to me, this is my family’s business and I want to make sure it keeps going,” Brandon said. “I do feel lucky that I care that much about it.”
It truly is a family affair at Ireland Insurance. Mark Brandon’s wife, Brandy, is the company secretary and his sister, Amy, also works for the company. Those who aren’t blood related, still feel like family, Brandon said.
Dot Hampton, who was hired by Brandon’s grandfather in 1971, still works at the company.
Though it would certainly be frowned upon to make a comment like this in today’s society, Brandon said, his grandfather told Hampton when he hired her at age 36 that he was glad to be hiring someone older who wouldn’t get pregnant and leave. Two years later however, Hampton came to the office to report that she was in fact pregnant.
“The cute part is, she was pregnant with her fifth son, his name is Ryan and I just hired him two weeks ago,” Brandon said with a laugh.
It’s still a big company joke that no one is allowed to fire Dot Hampton.
“She feels like she has pretty good job security,” Brandon said with a laugh.
Brandon said the staff of Ireland Insurance is part of what makes the company so great.
“The people we work with here just generally have all been good people,” he said. “My business philosophy is, surround yourself with good people and the rest will work out.”
Amanda Goodrum is the company’s vice president. Also employed at Ireland Insurance are Melanie McCollum and Leesa Cornelius.
“They’re all good people, they do great things for us. We just trust them,” Brandon said.
Ireland Insurance is an independent agency which sells insurance policies from several companies including Eerie Insurance, Travelers Insurance, National General, Foremost and Lititz Mutual.
Brandon said they plan on hosting a celebratory cookout sometime this fall in honor of the 75th anniversary.
“We’re pretty happy to be celebrating our 75th year,” Brandon said. “We’re blessed to be in the position we are in. We love this town, we’ve all been here our whole lives. It’s been a good ride and we’re going to keep it going.”
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.