Steve Bonham has been in the insurance business for 45 years. That will change slightly when he semi-retires and his competitor and good friend Joel Hardy purchases his business and building on First Street.
Hardy will use the name Hardy-Bonham Insurance Agency and it will be somewhat business as usual. Moving day was Wednesday, Dec. 29 and the new business becomes official Jan 1. The same staff from both agencies will now serve customers out of the Bonham location at 426 N. First St. in Harrison.
“We have not been very good competitors.” Bonham said, describing his relationship with Hardy.
Their friendship and working relationship reaches back into the 1980s and has been one of support and mutual respect.
Bonham’s son is retired from a distinguished military career and his daughter is a pharmacist, so his retirement plans did not include passing the business to a family member.
“This is a good fit for Joel, he’ll have the best there is in Michigan as far as independent insurance agency companies with Auto Owners, Pioneer, Frankenmuth, and Fremont and he’ll also have Progressive and Foremost,” Bonham said. “He has a wide range of pricing available for people.”
Hardy and his son, Jeffrey Hardy, are excited about purchasing the building and business from Bonham.
“The agencies have done a pretty similar business, taking pride in customer service.” said Hardy.
The difference for Hardy will be taking over the seven rental units in the Bonham Insurance building which Jeffrey will manage.
Hardy will continue to handle the commercial accounts and the business side while Jeffrey Hardy will continue to focus on personal insurance. Bonham will serve his clients on a more flexible schedule and help when needed.
While Hardy is slightly younger than Bonham, retirement is only a passing thought. He works a flexible schedule he attributes to a great staff.
“I’m fortunate that I’ve always had good people. Debbie [Roy] retired last March and she worked with us for almost 18 years.”
That flexibility allowed Hardy to focus on his commercial accounts, running the business and gave him time to be involved in the community.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever retire, it might be a hostile takeover when he [Jeffery] gets tired of me hanging out and drinking coffee all day,” Hardy said with a laugh.
Hardy said even the lawyers and accountants handling the sale were surprised at the ease of the business transition.
“The whole thing has been very simple; we’ve been friends since the early 1980s and have not had any changes or disagreements through the process.”
The process of merging or buying insurance agencies is not unfamiliar. Hardy’s parents bought out Ben Bosink in 1976. They had worked for him and then bought out the agency. Fresh out of college, Bonham worked for Larry Schofield of Farwell Insurance Agency. Schofield eventually purchased the First-McClenathen Agency in Harrison. The name was changed to Schofield Insurance, and Bonham was the agency’s sole agent and manager in Harrison. He took ownership of that agency in 1990 changing the name to Bonham Insurance Agency, Inc.
The new agency is a legacy of all that experience. Hardy-Bonham Insurance Agency will have the assistance of Steve Bonham with over 45 years of experience, owner Joel Hardy with 40 years of experience and Jeffrey Hardy with nine years of experience. Bonham employee Shirley Schram has 23 years of experience and will stay on with the new agency until her retirement next year.
For Bonham, he plans to do the things he’s always done, just more of them: ice fishing, hunting, puttering in his yard, mowing his lawn, and some travel during the winter.
Bonham happily gives up his large office to Hardy and quipped, “I’ll have an office by the back door so I can run out anytime.”
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