In 1869 and 1870, two firms were founded in Wooster, Ohio – the W.G. Whitaker Agency (initially the Fullerton Agency until 1891) and the W.C. Myers Agency. Both began building solid reputations based on the trust of their clients. The original Fullerton/Whitaker agency’s first and primary contract was in representation of Ohio Farmers Insurance Co (now, Westfield Group). Other early contracts included The Hartford and INA/ Cigna. The Myers Agency was among the first to represent the “newly formed” Cincinnati Insurance Company (1951) in 1952.
All together, men like Walter Whitaker, W.C. Myers, George Quinby, Francis Whitaker, George Wertenberger, Ivan Steiner, Jr., Dick Sheller, Robert Anderson and Richard Jones and Michael Steiner were respected, professional members of the Wooster area and were largely responsible for the growth and reputation for excellence of both their Wooster community and their respective agencies. The Whitaker Agency and Myers Agency merged in 1970 to form what is still known today as Whitaker-Myers. Whitaker-Myers Insurance Agency Inc. maintains the same guiding principles today, guideposts which have earned the agency the trust of an entire community over generations. This corporate entity, continues as the group’s Insurance firm, a property, casualty and surety agency, the largest of the three separate practice groups which now comprise and use the trade name, Whitaker-Myers Group.
Over the years, Whitaker-Myers Group (“WMG”) has grown to become one of Ohio’s outstanding, respected privately-owned independent insurance agencies. Our clients range from homeowners and small businesses to well-known area, regional and national organizations. We’re in a growth mode and while others around us are being acquired by larger agencies or banks, we are welcoming new clients and acquiring other agencies. This bold plan to move forward fortifies our balance sheet and our independent position and secures the future for both our employees and our clients.
Within the past three decades, our plan has seen expansion of the Whitaker-Myers Group family. First, with the acquisition of Badger Insurance Agency (Orrville) in 1984. Scott Allen of Worthington, Ohio joined the firm in 1985 through a family association with Westfield. To complement the firm’s special expertise in public entity work, the agency was selected to represent the new, fully reinsured governmental pooling program, Ohio Plan Risk Management in 1988. This appointment persists today and the OPRM has more than 800 members, 115 of which are WMG clients today. In 1990, Mr. Allen bought the firm with banker, friend and CPA, Scott Young and the two 50/50 owners managed the agency together for the next eight years.
In 1998, the merger of Insurance Showcase Agency in Wooster took center stage. Showcase principal, John McCord, CPCU, became a third Whitaker-Myers owner. This merger brought the agency the pen for Motorists Mutual Companies, Western Reserve Group and Wayne Insurance Group, accepting contracts with all three insurers. These carriers joined a lineup that included Westfield, Cincinnati, Indiana, Travelers, Chubb, and The Hartford. The Showcase merger included prior acquisitions of three smaller agencies, including the George Leedy Felt Agency in Shreve, Ohio. The firm was now co-owned and co-managed by Allen, Young and McCord.
In 2002, the agency acquired the lngmand Insurance Agency in nearby Ashland, Ohio – another outstanding college community (home of Ashland University) about 20 miles from Wooster. The lngmand Agency, founded in 1913 in Ashland by Mr. lngmand’s grandfather, had long been regarded by Ashland County residents as the premiere source for insurance and risk management expertise and for sound judgment, service excellence and strong community leadership. Like Whitaker-Myers, Westfield Group/ Ohio Farmers was the first of lngmand’s 1913 contract appointments. Former lngmand principals Robert “Bud” lngmand and Jack Ebert remained with the firm until their retirement in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Though the Ashland office operation became part of Whitaker-Myers Group, the agency building in downtown Ashland – The lngmand Building – continues to bear the lngmand name, a name forever linked with a reputation for quality, professionalism and ethics in that community for four generations. The lngmand acquisition brought Grange Mutual as well as additional Westfield, Travelers, and Western Reserve volume to the agency.
Similarly, in 2003 Whitaker-Myers also acquired the Aten & Mennetti Insurance Agency, with offices in Mansfield and Ashland, Ohio. The Ashland offices of Aten & Mennetti now share space in the group’s Ashland office, which gives Whitaker-Myers Group one consolidated Ashland location (The lngmand Building, 20 E. Main St.). Former A&M owners Emmett Mennetti and Donald Aten remained with Whitaker-Myers until their retirement in June 2007. The A&M deal added State Auto and Ohio Mutual to the agency lineup, as well as additional Wayne Mutual volume.
In 2012 the agency acquired representation for the OPRM’s sister program, the Ohio School Plan, further expanding the Whitaker-Myers footprint on the public/private school sector with the public entity market. Both the OPRM and the OSP remain part of the agency lineup of insurers and are a strong presence in the Ohio public entity space.
Mr. Young’s son-in-law, Ryan Emmons (Ashland, OH) joined the group in 2005 and is today a Vice-President/Risk Advisor for the firm. Mr. Allen’s son-in-law, Seth Buckwalter (Wooster, OH) joined the firm in 2017 as an Account Executive/Risk Advisor. Other veteran Account Executive/Risk Advisors are Joel Bender (1992) and Linda Brinkerhoff (2005), both based in the Wooster office.
The group established an Employee Benefits practice (Health, Disability, Med-Supp, LTC and Life insurance) in 2006, Whitaker-Myers Benefit Plans, LLC (“WMBP”). WMBP is led by President and co-owner, Chris Vanderzyden, of Ashland, who joined WMG the same year. WMBP has, despite a perennially unstable and uncertain national and regional health insurance market, grown consistently and steadily every year since its establishment.
In 2013, WMG added a third practice, an investments and financial planning operation in the form of a Registered Investment Advisory. This was initially accomplished with the addition of Matthew Harris of Ashland and then expanded in Wooster in 2014 with the addition of John-Mark Young, of Ontario, OH, formerly employed (2007-14) in Wayne and surrounding counties by PNC Wealth Management. With Harris in Ashland and Young in Wooster, the new practice, Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) has exceeded goals and expectations. As our 150th group anniversary approaches and WMWM approaches $75 million under management, the future is indeed bright.
With the group now completed, all three practices growing, flourishing and helping our clients realize their financial and risk-associated goals, Whitaker-Myers Group is living out its own stated goal: remaining independent for our clients and employees. As we do so, WMG remains open to further expansion of our professional staff, service/product offerings, and yes, to other acquisition and partnership opportunities that might make sense strategically and culturally for our associates, their families, our principals, policyholders and clients. We celebrate 150 amazing years, proudly and expectantly looking forward to the generations ahead.
Whitaker-Myers Group of Wooster and Ashland, since 1869, Insurance, Benefits & Wealth Management.