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Klein Insurance opens branch in Park Rapids

Representing the Klein Insurance office in Park Rapids are from left, Agent Tera Garlie, President Chris Klein and Customer Service and Contracting Specialist Jody Wizik. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

Klein Insurance was founded by Ken Klein in 1976 in Eagle Bend In 1988, the company expanded after Ken purchased an independent insurance agency, allowing them to sell insurance from multiple providers.

In 1997, Chris Klein, Ken's son, joined the family business and in 2008, Chris purchased the agency from his father and became the president at Klein Insurance.

The company began expanding further in 2010 by acquiring several different agencies. In 2013, they opened a second location in New York Mills and in June 2016 they acquired their location here in Park Rapids.

"There was an opportunity here, I had marketed to other people who owned agencies in central Minnesota and I've always thought of Park Rapids as a nice community with growing demographics," Chris said about the decision to open a location here. "When the opportunity arose that the former owner decided she wanted to pursue other interests more, I was looking to move into this marketplace, so it worked out really well."

According to Chris, the agency in Park Rapids has seen a few different changes in ownership over time. Now, Klein Insurance has taken over the policies for the clients that were doing business through the office prior to the transition.

In the past, the agency has solely sold health insurance and Klein Insurance works with various types of insurance such as business, car and home, farm insurance, etc.

"We thought this was a great opportunity to gain entry into the marketplace by acquiring an established business but also bring our other services to the clients," Chris said. "What people really like are deep meaningful relationships with their service providers and financial professionals so it's really an opportunity for us to expand our services to the clients who already do business with us here. And we hope it adds quality to their lives too."

Chris explained that the Park Rapids area differs from their other locations because there are a lot of small business owners operating small resorts, restaurants and seasonal retail shops.

"It's the biggest community we have an office in. It's a little bit more seasonal but there is a lot more commerce that happens here as opposed to the other towns that we do business in," he said. "We have another agent starting with us in a couple weeks and she's really going to focus on expanding our offerings to the community and try to get the word out. It is a different marketplace to us but we're really excited about it."

According to Chris, it was a really difficult fall for insurance agents and their clients.

"We deal with a lot of Medicare here and there was some pretty significant shake up by one of the companies. We were advising a lot of those people on changing their insurance this year and then the people who don't have insurance through their employer and just buy it individually who aren't on Medicare yet. Some folks saw 60 percent increases and the availability of coverage was way down. Medica shut it's doors after a week. Around here, the closest place a person could go would be either Sanford or the Wadena system. Essentia isn't even in network so there was really a lot of turmoil around here," Chris said about how people were impacted locally. "Cost of coverage was so high and the availability of it was so low and the insurance marketplace barely continued to exist here in Minnesota this year. And now there's a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen with the election and the new administration."

Chris added that each election tends to shake things up in the health insurance industry.

"That's one of the ways that we've been fortunate as a business," he said. "Even if there's disruption in any one marketplace we're able to weather that storm quite well because we're pretty well diversified in terms of types of insurance that we offer. But uncertainty is part of the game."

"The cost is so high and the deductibles are so high too. It can be a little depressing. You feel like the grim reaper. There's no good way to deliver news that's that bad," he said regarding the downside to his job as an agent.

Chris explained that their company motto is, "passionate about protection." He explained that insurance is a really important tool in people's lives and their company takes that seriously.

"I think what sets us apart from other providers like us is our commitment to communicating with our clients. Everyone says 'we offer great service' but we really try to take that seriously and bring a wow experience to everyone who does business with us," he added. "We want to go the extra mile and really make them feel like we've got their back on whatever the issue is."

Klein Insurance sends out a newsletter to their clients every month, and according to Chris, it is a chance for them to communicate with their clients about what is important.

They also have a Customer Relationship Specialist on staff, who is also Chris' mother Betty. Her only job is to call people and talk to them to see how things are going and what they can do to help. Ken and Betty will even go out and visit with clients, not for any reason other than to get to know their clients better.

"I always tell people, 'you might get sick of us but you're never going to wonder who or what we are,'" Chris said about their extensive customer service. "Because we're going to communicate with you."

"Insurance is scary to a lot of people because most people don't understand it and why should they? It's expensive and it's something that sometimes you don't even want but you have to have," Chris explained. "A lot of times they just want someone who is going to listen to them and understand what's what and we take the time to do that. It's really important."

Klein Insurance is also in the process of rolling out a very robust digital platform.

"Trying to bring us into the 21st century of emails that communicate with our clients at appropriate times in their life," Chris said. "It's just another layer of communication that we're able to add digitally as well."

"It's really a pleasure to be a part of the business community up here. I've been really impressed with the Chamber and how proactive they are with stuff," Chris said about expanding to the area. "It's fun to be a part of what seems to be a very progressive business community too and I'm really looking forward to expanding relationships with the community up here. It's fun."

"One thing I've heard a lot over the years is, 'the only time I hear from my insurance agent is when I'm getting a bill,' and that is not what we want to represent," he said. "We want to add value to your life and want to help you manage your risks and smooth the path for you."

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