The Williston Park-based insurance agency Hiram Cohen & Son, unsurprisingly, used to be owned by Hiram Cohen and his son.
Now, 100 years after the firm’s inception, the business is still owned by a Cohen and son: Hiram’s grandson Ron Cohen and great grandson Darren Cohen.
The agency is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in January and is still owned and operated by the direct descendants of founder Hiram Cohen.
“There’s statistics that show most family businesses don’t make it past the second or third generation, and we were able to,” said firm principal Darren Cohen.
Darren Cohen and his father Ron Cohen own the company. Before them it was Ron Cohen and his father Edward Cohen, and before them it was Edward Cohen and Hiram Cohen.
“We love what we’re doing: taking care of people,” Ron Cohen said.
The firm offers commercial insurance, personal insurance, life insurance and employee benefits.
It all started in 1919 when Hiram Cohen returned form service in World War I, looking for something to do, Ron Cohen said.
Edward Cohen joined him in the company during the depression era.
“When we were home at dinner all the time, my father was always talking insurance,” Ron Cohen said. “I took an interest in it.”
He went to law school, but couldn’t stay away from the family business. So in 1969, he joined it.
Until then, it had always been based in downtown Manhattan with the rest of the insurance industry, he said. He suggested to his father that they cut their commute since Edward Cohen was living in Sea Cliff and Ron Cohen was living in Manhasset. So in 1972, they moved the firm to Albertson and ten years later bought the building on Willis Avenue and moved again.
Darren Cohen entered Hiram Cohen & Son the same way his father did: studying law but deciding to instead pursue insurance.
“I thought that if the family business didn’t work out I could always go practice law, and that was 20 plus years ago,” he said.
He and his father have a great relationship that doesn’t come with any of the challenges one might expect with working with family, he said.
Ron Cohen said it’s gratifying to serve families.
“We’re not selling a tangible product,” he said. “We’re selling a promise so that when people have a claim we’re there to take care of it…and that’s very rewarding.”
Part of the reason the business has lasted is because it’s adapted to changes in the industry, Darren Cohen said.
But it’s also because its part of the community, said his father. Ron Cohen is the vice president of the Sid Jacobsen JCC in Roslyn, and his company sponsors its annual golf and tennis outing.
Since its inception, the firm has grown from just a few employees to 45, Ron Cohen said.
As for the next 100 years, it’s hard to predict where the company will be, Darren Cohen said. His great grandfather probably didn’t predict where it would be in 2019.
The centennial is humbling, he said.
“It is,” Darren Cohen said. “It’s humbling and when you think about it not many businesses celebrate their 100th anniversary and four generations in the same family, and if it wasn’t for hard work and dedication and all of our employees we wouldn’t be able to do it.”