SPOTLIGHT ON: HGAR Affiliate of the Year JoAnne Murray
Mary Prenon | December 12, 2016
JoAnne Murray, president of the Allan M. Block Agency, Inc. in Tarrytown, had no idea that she was going to be honored as the HGAR “Affiliate Member of the Year” at the Annual Meeting and Member Appreciation Day in October. “When I heard my name called, I was so shocked that I just sat there looking around saying, ‘Really?’ ” she recalled. “Everyone did a great job of keeping it a secret.”
Founded in 1959, the Allan M. Block Agency has been a long-time supporter of the Association and Murray has been part of the firm since the early 1970s. “I like people and it’s a people business,” she said. “Every day is different. We work with everyone from renters of small apartments to owners of multi-million dollar homes.”
Murray grew up in Suffern and studied accounting at Rockland County Community College. Somehow, she wound up doing insurance instead. She worked locally and then moved to Oneonta for about seven years before returning to the lower Hudson Valley.
She began her career with the Allan M. Block Agency as a secretary to Allan Block. “He was my mentor,” she recalled. “I learned marketing and sales from him, and compassion from his wife, Barbara. He would drag me out to sales calls and networking events—but ‘networking’ wasn’t even a word back then!”
Allan Block died unexpectedly in 1981 at the age of 52 and Barbara passed 10 years later at 62. “They were both very young and it’s sad that they didn’t’ live long enough to enjoy what they had built,” said Murray. “They understood that building relationships with people is so important to growing your business.”
In 1991, Murray and Ed Schultz assumed ownership of the agency, with Murray heading up the personal lines division and Schultz, the commercial lines division. Today, the company has 22 full time employees housed within two buildings in Tarrytown.
Murray believes some of the biggest challenges in today’s market are automation and social media. “Marketing the business has changed a lot—you have to stay one step ahead all the time,” she said. The Allan M. Block Agency offers personal insurance for homes, cars, boats, travel, life, and even identity theft. On the business side, it provides property insurance, general liability, workers compensation, disability, group health, long-term care and more.
In her spare time, Murray is very active in the local community. She is a member of the Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Board of Directors of the Tarrytown Music Hall and Kendal on Hudson and chairs the Tarrytown Rotary’s annual Tarrytown Halloween Parade and Duck Derby.
The Duck Derby, an April fundraiser for local charities, involves about 2,000 yellow rubber ducks that race in the stream at Patriot’s Park on Route 9 in Tarrytown. People pay $10 to “adopt” a duck. Murray is such a part of this event, that she even dons a duck costume for the event. “Sometimes if it’s a really warm day, it gets very hot in that costume,” she quipped. “Lots of kids come running up to me in the costume, so now I know what it’s like to be Santa Claus.”
After the event, Rotary members have to wash all of the ducks and put them away for the winter. “It’s a huge process,” she added.
Murray’s other favorite pastime is baseball. She and her husband have actually visited all of the baseball parks in the U.S. “We’ve been from Florida to California and every state in-between,” she said. They started this quest in 1995 and have never tired of it. Their favorite ballfield is Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD.
Their family now includes three grown children and six grandchildren, and her youngest daughter works with her. “I just love what I do,” she said. “I’m never going to retire!”