We thought it might be helpful to assemble a list of the Home and Auto insurance agencies available to you as an insurance consumer in the Bemidji area. Obviously, we hope you will buy your insurance through us, but we also feel that you would appreciate an open and objective discussion of your options. Competition is a good thing, as it provides you the consumer the opportunity to review and decide who deserves your business. We encourage you to evaluate your options on the three aspects of good insurance value: price, coverage and relationship.
Local independent agencies
Independent insurance agencies have a great deal of flexibility in finding the best solution for your insurance needs, because we represent a number of different insurance companies. This allows the agency to deliver on price (by shopping among their carriers for you), coverage (by picking carriers and products that meet your needs) and relationship (as you can keep your current agent even if your current carrier no longer meets your needs). Pine Country Insurance is an independent insurance agency; but let’s introduce you to the others in Bemidji.
Insure Forward is one of the older and easily the largest agency in town. They were previously known as Insurance Placement Service or simply IPS until their purchase by Bank Forward approximately ten years ago. With their multitude of carrier contracts, large staff and breadth of knowledge and experience, they have much to offer, including great options for midsize to larger local businesses or insurance consumers with hard-to-place needs. They are located on Paul Bunyan Drive within the Bank Forward building and can be reached at 218-751-2330 or www.bankforward.com.
Risk Management Services of Bemidji (aka RMS) was the brain-child of local entrepreneur Matt Sparby, who hired Dan Posner as the first agent around a dozen years ago. Since then RMS has grown by leaps and bounds and gained a sizable market share in commercial insurance, as well as a decent personal lines presence. Much of this growth was organic, but it was also helped along by the acquisition of the local agency Beltrami Insurance Group a few years after their founding. Like Insure Forward, RMS has the size and scope to be able to handle nearly any type of commercial or personal insurance need. RMS is located in the Sparby Financial building across from the hospital on Anne St and can be reached at 218-759-1201 or online at www.rmsinsurancebemidji.com.
Another independent agency worthy of special note is Northway Insurance, which has been a staple on Third Street in downtown Bemidji for many years. It was started in 1985 by Steve North, and he grew it to be one of the largest agencies for his primary carrier in the state. In 2001 North added a second location in Park Rapids when he purchased a local agency there, which he later sold. Steve sold the Bemidji Northway location to two of his long-time employees one year ago. Northway of Bemidji and its three staff members offer a broad array of personal and commercial insurance products and can be reached at 218-751-0821 or online at www.northwayinsurance.com.
There are a number of other local independent agencies. Among them are older agencies (Bemidji Insurance Plus and Dale Schmidt Agency), new independent agencies with older roots (Truinsure - formerly the Ken Stone Agency, Security Insurance - formerly Insure North of Blackduck and Farmers Union Insurance – now a hybrid but formerly an exclusive agency) and new offices which have sprung up locally in recent years (Greater Midwest Insurance, Headwaters Agency and Big Horn Insurance Services).
Local exclusive agencies
An exclusive agency is different from an independent agency in that it primarily represents just one insurance company. While this obviously narrows the agency’s breadth of offerings, it also enables the agent to dig deeper and become an expert in the offerings of the company he or she represents.
Probably the best known exclusive-agency carrier is State Farm, who also happens to be the largest Home & Auto insurer in America. Approximately ten years or so ago, Sara Labraaten took over a local State Farm agency from a retiring agent and has since grown it into the second ranked State Farm agency in the country. In a recent Minnesota trade publication, Sara stated that her keys to success are simply practiced the well-known basics of hiring the best staff, marketing extensively and treating customers the way she would want to be treated. The Sara Labraaten Agency is located on Bemidji Avenue just north of Library Park and can be reached at 218-444-2400 or online at www.sarahsagency.com. The other local State Farm agents are long-time agent Mark Gazelka and newer agent Jake Blumn.
Another well-known local exclusive agency brand is American Family. Shannon Miller took over for a retiring agent several years ago, and has since built his business to the point of receiving top countrywide honors among all American Family agents countrywide two times in the past eight months. Miller & Associates is located in front of the Paul Bunyan Mall and can be reached at 218-751-5351 or online at www.agent.amfam.com/mn/bemidji/shannon-miller/. Todd Gabrelcik is the other local American Family agent.
Other exclusive agencies in Bemidji include Farmers Insurance agents Jerry Downs and Brad Caspers, Country Financial agents Chris Lehman and Scott Turn, Federated Insurance agent Mike Anderson and AAA agent John Kovach.
We hope that you have found this post informative and helpful in your review of your local insurance agency options. We've tried to make this list comprehensive; so please let us know if we unintentionally missed anyone. As always, we welcome your questions and feedback.
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.