The agency that is today Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan, and Collins was founded in 1927. Through eighty years â€‘ and five name changes — the agency has shielded families and businesses from risk, offered peace of mind, and been a steady, reliable member of the community.
Geddes & Crippen…the Early Years
The year was 1927. Cars and radios had become mainstream fixtures in American homes. The nation was busy celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s successful solo Trans-Atlantic flight from NYC to Paris, marveling over “talkie” films, and enjoying unprecedented economic prosperity. It was in July of this year that two North Adams businessmen, Harold E. Crippen and William J. Geddes, formed a partnership. Together, they purchased the Reinhard insurance agency, which had served the community since 1900. The result was Geddes & Crippen, an agency that would, through numerous name changes, serve the community with integrity for 80 years…and counting.
The early years were a busy, changing time for the insurance industry. The prosperity of the roaring 20s came to an abrupt end with the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. These years proved a test for the young company, yet Geddes & Crippen remained viable, even purchasing the Ransford agency in 1932. Subsequent years brought the Recession of 1937, a World War, and then, finally, the post-war industrial boom. Through it all, Geddes & Crippen remained strong.
By the early 1950s, Wiliam Geddes, then a widower, had three granddaughters and a grandson. His grandson, Bob, often accompanied him on visits to business clients. Together, they might visit a Mohawk Trail gift shop on a Friday evening, and Geddes would discuss insurance needs with the owner. Bob – perhaps influenced by these early visits with his grandfather – would one day become a partner in the agency.
1950s: Change for the Agency…and the Industry
In 1954, Geddes hired Edward J. Coakley, a graduate of Brown University. Shortly thereafter, Geddes passed away; Coakley purchased his shares and became a partner. Coakley’s daughter, Martha, would one day grow up to be the first female Attorney General of Massachusetts.
In the mid-fifties, a major shift occurred within the insurance industry. Until then, people purchased multiple policies in small amounts. There was no such thing as a bundled “Homeowner’s policy.” Rather, people held individual policies for Fire, Theft, Liability, Flood, and more. In 1955, the agency mailed clients hand-typed letters that described with enthusiasm “the latest development” in insurance – the packaging of products into a single Homeowner’s policy.
1957 Donald E. Crippen, son of founder Harold Crippen, became a new partner, and the firm became Crippen and Coakley. This was the first – but not the last – time that the agency would pass to another generation’s care.
1960s and 1970s...A New Generation
Seven years later, in 1964, Joseph A. Dolan, a graduate of Providence College, joined the agency. In 1967, he became an officer, and the agency was renamed Crippen, Coakley, and Dolan.
Dolan, a father of six children, was deeply involved with the community. Among other roles, Dolan served for many years as President of the Chamber of Commerce. Dolan’s son, Tim, a budding entrepreneur in his own right, often accompanied his father on client visits. He recalls leaving school early to tour an asphalt company – which young Tim called “the gunk factory” – that held a business policy with the agency. Tim also fondly recalls riding with his father in a convertible car during the Fall Foliage Parade and waving to the assembled throng. What Tim didn’t know then is that he would one day march in the same parade as an agency partner.
In 1969, Donald Crippen resigned, and Robert C. Armata, a Clarksburg resident and Colgate graduate, joined the firm. At this point, the firm was rechristened Coakley Dolan, and Armata. Two years later, in 1971, the agency merged with the company founded in 1936 by Harry Pierpan. Pierpan’s firm had itself grown substantially during its 35 years, acquiring several other local firms. At the time of the 1971 merger, Pierpan’s firm was run in part by Henry J. Pierpan, a graduate of Norwich University and army veteran – and the son of the firm’s founder. This latest merger made the agency Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan, and Armata.
By the early 1970s, Robert W. Collins, grandson of founder William Geddes, had followed in his grandfather’s footsteps as an insurance representative. Collins purchased the Kronick agency in 1974, and merged it with his grandfather’s agency – now Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan, and Armata – one year later. With that merger, the agency took its current name: Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan, and Collins (CPD&C) At that time, the office was located at 85 Main Street.
1980s and 1990s: Looking Forward
In the late 1980s, the agency purchased the building formerly occupied by one of its former clients, the Wall-Streeter Shoe Company, at 26 Union Street. By then, manufacturing in the area had begun to decline; renovating this building was a powerful symbol to the community that the local economy, while changing, would continue to thrive. Today, nearly 2 decades later, CPD&C is still headquartered at the Wall-Streeter Shoe Company location.
By the 1990s, CPD&C offered Business insurance, Property and Casualty insurance, Life insurance, and other financial services. Employees in the financial services division recognized the need for greater specialization. In May, 1997, seventy years after Geddes and Crippen founded their firm, CPD&C spun off a new company: True North Financial services. This company, an independent financial services firm, allowed both agencies to serve their customers with greater specialization.
2012 - Joining Forces
In an effort to trim costs while continuing to grow, CPD&C joined forces with Pittsfield-based insurance agency Stevenson & Co. in February 2012. This consolidation enabled both agencies to share expenses, which made more funds available for service and product upgrades for the benefit of their customers. Stevenson & Co. has been providing Personal and Business Insurance in Pittsfield and Berkshire County since 1867.
Today: A Community Institution, True to Our Roots
Today, CPD&C serves thousands of customers, both businesses and families, with a comprehensive array of insurance products. A premier Property and Casualty provider, CPD&C is licensed in 26 states, and serves every customer – whether a hospital, museum, medical practice, land developer, contractor, or family – with professionalism, reliability, and trust.
Many things have changed since our founding. Computers and other technologies have vastly improved agents’ productivity and accessibility; in 2005, it was estimated that our industry spent $19 billion on information technology products and services alone. CPD&C offers the full benefits of these technologies – without losing our personal touch.
The industry has witnessed tremendous consolidation, as well. In the early 1950s – around the time that Mr. Coakley added his name to the firm – there were 26 insurance agencies with offices in North Adams. Today, there are just five. The same consolidation is mirrored at the product level; insurance carriers have consolidated and merged at lightening speed. We navigate these changes on behalf of our customers, helping them select – as always –the best, most trustworthy protection available.
Finally, we remain deeply committed to the community we serve. Our partners have helped shape the community through active participation in Northern Berkshire’s most visible institutions – MASS MoCA, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Northern Berkshire United Way, and the Chamber of Commerce – as well as churches, youth sports, and more. We do these things, because you are our neighbors, as well as our customers. It’s just one of the ways we ensure the security and well-being of our community.