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Sunderland Insurance celebrates 60 years and a new beginning

By
MARY KAY McPARTLIN

This year is the 60th anniversary of Sunderland Insurance, a fixture in downtown Tecumseh. Mike and Colleen Sunderland continued the work started by Mike’s parents, Don and Mary Lou, which, beyond insurance, focuses on community support and participation.

When Don Sunderland started working with the Leroy Titley Insurance Agency, he had six months to learn insurance before Titley’s death. Titley’s widow offered the agency to Don, and he accepted.

“The phones started ringing and the bills started coming in. That was in 1961,” Mike said.

Don’s wife Mary Lou came into the office in 1962. Mike grew up hearing stories of insurance and the office every night at the dinner table, but it didn’t inspire him to think of a career in the business.

“I didn’t have any plans of being in the insurance business,” said Mike. “I was going to be a photographer.”

After graduating from Ferris State College in 1980, Mike didn’t follow his photography dreams, but returned home to work in insurance with his parents. His wife Colleen joined the office 10 years later.

The four Sunderlands worked together until Mike and Colleen were ready to take care of the clients on their own. “My dad always told me, ‘When you’re ready let me know and I’m out of here,’” Mike said.

After 41 years in the insurance business, Mike has seen some remarkable changes. He remembers an office without computers where premiums were worked out on scrap paper.

What hasn’t changed is the pleasure of working with people and guiding them through the process of choosing insurance. Mike may not make night calls to families the way his father did, but the personal attention is still important to Sunderland Insurance.

The office has been blessed with dedicated and caring staff, most of whom put in decades serving clients. Employees with 40 and 35 years working for Sunderland Insurance have recently retired, after long and happy careers.

“It’s a team and a family. People are more than just employees,” said Mike.

Over the past few years, the workload for Mike and Colleen has grown heavy. Their commitment to the clients of Sunderland Insurance has kept them in the office late into the evening.

Their two grown sons, Kevin and Philip, have been a big help to the office over the years. “Without the support of our kids the last few years, we wouldn’t have made it,” Colleen said.

The Sunderland family now includes three grandchildren with a fourth to make an appearance in the late fall. Mike and Colleen want more time with family and time to travel, which is not possible with the long hours they work.

So, 18 months ago they began a process to find a company to merge with Sunderland Insurance, which would allow Mike and Colleen to work the hours they want and have access to a top-notch insurance team. “We have found a new partnership with Michigan Community Insurance Agency,” said Colleen. “We know this partnership will be a great benefit to our clients, our future and to our community.”

“We needed a plan to make sure our customers are taken care of and to be fair to them,” Mike said. “We didn’t have any back-up plan. This agency – they are part of the community. We will work less hours and be able to know we are taking care of our customers.”

Established clients and new clients will continue to have access to Mike and Colleen and visit the office at the corner of Logan and Ottawa streets in Tecumseh.
“We are here as an agency,” said Mike. “Our name will continue. They are going to stay in this building. We can stay as long as we want.”

“Their philosophy is our philosophy,” Colleen said. “From when we met them, we felt comfortable.”

The Sunderlands are looking forward to more time with grandkids and traveling to their home in Florida for more than an occasional long weekend. Most of all they are relieved and happy to know that the tradition of service and care that began 60 years ago with Don and Mary Lou will continue to be offered to their clients.
For more information on Sunderland Insurance visit sunderlandinsurance.com or call 423.7441.
 

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