This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published October 16, 2019
Believe it or not, ice hockey played a part in building a great partnership of support between Shoreline Arts Alliance (SAA) and The Stone Agency Insurance. Over the course of practices, high school games and otherwise freezing conditions, two dads—SAA Executive Director Eric Dillner and Stone Agency managing partner Rob Oman—became friends.
“I just got to know Eric through hockey from his son at Daniel Hand High School,” says Rob, a past Madison hockey parent and coach of many years. “So I’ve known Eric since he’s moved [to Madison] and taken over the [SAA] job. He’s a great guy.”
Dillner moved to Madison upon being hired as SAA executive director in 2011. Getting to know Dillner, and through him, a bit more about SAA, helped Rob and his business partner, Stone Agency Managing Partner Doug Danaher, to become big fans and supporters of the Guilford-based non-profit.
This month, in support of SAA, Guilford-based Stone Agency is helping to sponsor the SAA Guild’s annual Costumes & Cocktails party in a big way: by opening the doors of the agency’s expansive home and beautiful grounds on Goose Lane as the host venue for the party. SAA’s annual Halloween event for “big kids” takes place at the Stone Agency, 350 Goose Lane in Guilford on Friday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Tickets, $40, are still available at www.ShorelineArts.org/costumes-cocktails.
For his part, Dillner says the Stone Agency’s role in the success of this annual SAA fall party and fundraiser, which draws a big crowd, can’t be underestimated.
“We sold out last year, so this year we are at The Stone Agency so we can have more folks come for the fun and raise money for the arts education on the shoreline,” Dillner says.
Founded in 1980, SAA is a Regional Service Organization of CT Department of Economic and Community Development-Office of the Arts. SAA’s mission, “Transform Lives through the Arts” is carried out through state wide arts offerings, scholarships, and work as an arts council, with a goal to educate, enrich, engage, and encourage.
Costumes are highly encouraged for SAA’s Costumes & Cocktails, where guests will enjoy music, food, complementary beer, wine, and cocktails (from Mionetto and Got Attitude Vodka). In addition, the night’s silent auction will offer frightfully good prizes, from tickets to Fright Haven to a basket of handmade items from Connecticut River Artisans Cooperative.
The party will also transform the noteworthy building and grounds that are home to the Stone Agency. The post-and-beam building features a soaring space in its main lobby, where windowed doors opens to an expansive patio courtyard and vintage-style greenhouse at back. Rob’s already picked the spot where Reno and Son’s Pizza Co.’s truck will fire up its wood-fired pizza oven to serve complementary fresh pizza during Costumes & Cocktails.
An Inspired Space
While the agency is delighted with its office space on Goose Lane, making the move from downtown Guilford, where the Stone Agency had been doing business since the 19th century, wasn’t a light decision for Rob and Danaher.
“We’ve always been in downtown Guilford,” says Rob, noting one of the agency’s oldest customers is another heritage local business—Guilford Savings Bank (GSB).
The Stone Agency has insured GSB since 1859.
Fast forward to about 2 ½ years ago, when Rob and Danaher could no longer ignore that fact that their company had outgrown its long-time home at 35 Boston Street. They were looking for a new downtown Guilford location when the opportunity came along to lease the elegant, unusual building at 350 Goose Lane, originally constructed for upscale Wilbur & King Nurseries. Rob and Doug decided to make the move. Now, Stone Agency’s new home is the crown jewel among a three-building, 16-acre Guilford business park that’s growing on the site.
For both Rob and Danaher, it was important for Stone Agency to remain in Guilford. About 50 percent of the company’s business is still rooted in the shoreline area (the company’s business/commercial clientele also includes many out-of-state groups), including and Stone Agency’s philanthropic efforts are largely local. SAA is also one of several arts-related not-for-profits the Guilford company insures across the greater shoreline area, Rob notes.
Locally, in addition to giving back by helping to support SAA, Stone Agency is also a supporter of non-profit Guilford Arts Center and has been very involved, for many years, with Guilford Youth Mentoring in Guilford Public Schools. Doug is on the GYM board; and he and many of the company’s 12 to 14 staff members have been or are currently volunteer mentors. For his part, Rob served on the board of the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce (SCC) for many years.
One of the reasons Rob and Danaher liked the idea of moving to the Goose Lane site was that they saw the potential to expand the Stone Agency’s options to give back to local causes the agency supports, adds Rob.
“Our objective is to use this venue, at least twice a year, as a place to help a group raise money. It helps their group, and it helps raise awareness for our businesses and visibility for this location. So for many reasons, from our perspective, it’s a good thing,” Rob says.
The Stone Agency hosted parties for the Shoreline Chamber and Guilford Youth Mentoring last year, as well as one for A.W. Cox Elementary School’s “Shed” fundraising effort, organized by Cox School’s social worker, Jyl Lozier-Oman, Rob’s wife.
Danaher and his wife, Sudie Danaher, who’s also Stone Agency’s marketing manager, live in Guilford; the Omans reside in Madison.
As local residents, “Doug and I have always been involved in [youth sports] and coaching,” says Rob.
As their children, now older, became involved in local youth sports, Rob coached hockey and lacrosse locally and across the northeast; and Doug Danaher supported local basketball and baseball as a coach. As a company, the Stone Agency has worked with Guilford Youth Sports for many years, and currently sponsors little league, youth basketball, and youth football teams locally in Guilford. Multiple members of the agency also actively volunteer to coach baseball, basketball, and football in the local community.
Rob and Danaher met working together at a large firm in New Haven. When the firm was bought by a large national brokerage, they came to the Stone Agency during the period when Rob’s sister, Nancy Poole, was an owner. Poole, who had been involved with the Stone Agency since 1987, was the first person outside of the Stone family to become an owner of the agency, and also one of the first female owners of an insurance agency in Connecticut, notes Rob. In 1996, together with Poole, Rob and Danaher bought the balance of the agency from the remaining Stone family members. Ten years later, Poole retired, and Rob and Danaher continued to helm the company.
As agency principals, both Rob and Danaher hold professional credentials. Rob is a chartered property & casual underwriter (CPCU) and Danaher is a certified insurance counselor (CIC) with an MBA. As an independent agency, the company represents 20 different carriers.
“In my opinion, it’s a huge advantage, because we can go to different carriers to fit different needs,” says Rob.
That’s helped create an important niche for Stone Agency, Rob adds.
“Due to the fact that we need to understand so many different carriers in the markets, we have a much broader knowledge of the industry,” he says, adding, “I enjoy the people contact. It’s fun for me to go out and meet people and new clients, and potential clients. And I still like the challenge, the competitive piece of the puzzle. We also have a lot of old-time Guilford clients, [so] we have a lot of second- and third-generation relationships.”
As Rob points out, that can be a “double-edged sword,” as younger generations might become attracted to other insurers, for any number of reasons. It keeps the agency on its toes to support clients with upgrades ranging from technology to Stone Agency’s new branding effort, which included unveiling a new logo and new website, www.stoneinsagency.com.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Stone Agency’s community involvement. This busy company will always continue to make an effort to give back, says Rob.
“It’s kind of a balancing act, but overall, we enjoy it,” says Rob.
Right now, Stone Agency and its staff are balancing work with working to help support SAA’s Costumes & Cocktails. Rob and Danaher especially thank Sudie Danaher for helping to rally and organize Stone Agency’s participation in the celebration.
“We’re looking forward to the event,” says Rob. “We’re happy to support it.”