We look after our customers like they are family” Chuck Mason
You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.
There’s an old, yellowed newspaper article on the wall as you enter Mason Insurance. It’s an historical account of the business relating all the way back to W. Barton Mason, Chuck’s grandfather, who was also one of the founders of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and the Orange Volunteer Fire Dept.
The article tells about the days during the depression when Barton used to collect hams and corn as payment toward premiums and even ended up loaning a customer money to pay his premium.
I’m sitting in Chuck’s office surrounded with family memorabilia, certificates and books. With us is business partner Bryan Hargett who seems to know about as much of the Mason family business history as Chuck. Bryan, himself having a remarkable legacy in Orange is a past president of the Orange Co. Education Foundation and the Orange County Library Board and is currently a Breakfast Buddy at Orange Elementary School.
The agency started back in 1891 under the direction of V.R. Shackelford Sr. and Allen Warren. “Dad graduated from Woodberry Forest in 1936, went on to Washington Lee, Class of ’40 and then Washington & Lee Law School in ‘42” says Chuck. “He left the Navy in 1946 after WWII and came to help his dad, my grandfather, for six months and ended up never practicing law and finally running the business.”
Chuck’s history is very similar. “I attended college at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, spent three years in commercial banking in Baltimore and returned to Orange in ’75. At the time my father (Harry) had a long time partner, Lacey Wright. When Lacey retired in 1969 Ben Hargett, Bryans dad, bought Lacey’s share of the business.”
Bryan having spent several years for various commercial insurance companies returned to Orange in ’93. Both Chuck and Bryan following in their father’s footsteps.
Except for a few family-owned farms that have been here since the 1700’s Mason Insurance is the oldest business both in the Town and County of Orange.
What makes us unique, explains Bryan, is that we’ve done our best to remain true to what Barton Mason started – treating people like you’d want to be treated.
But really it’s more than that. As an eight year downtown employee and advocate for Orange I’ve seen Mason Insurance time after time after time generously support almost every good cause that involves our community. There is probably nobody who lives within 10 miles of Orange that have not somehow been positively affected by the generosity of Mason Insurance. They care about this community – their community. Besides serving his second term as mayor, Chuck has served on Town Council, been a past President of Orange Rotary, was awarded Outstanding Rotarian (’87-“88), is a Paul Harris Fellow, a past president of the O.C.C.C., elected Businessman of the Year in 1992 and been a champion for our Town in innumerable ways.
Chuck went on to say that part of the longevity and success of Mason’s is their low employee turnover. Whitney, (Chucks daughter) being one of the more recently hired in 2006 will be the 4th generation Mason there. Mrs. Tucker, secretary and part owner started in 1967, JoAnn McGhee, bookkeeper back in 1980, and Mary Trester Shifflett, customer service rep in 2009.
“We know our customers as well as anyone else,” Chuck was saying. “We go to church with them, watch sports, and are involved in community events. We live here with our customers.”
Bryan affirmed Chuck’s sentiment by saying that, “We support our local charities and the community that you won’t get with a 1 800 company. We’re here. We live, eat, buy gas, and raise our kids here. You know us.”
But it’s not the generosity of these guys nor the long-time employee retention that makes Mason Insurance the company it has been for 125 years. It’s Chuck and Bryan. They treat you like family. Chuck’s two favorite sayings are: You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give, and your reputation is what other people think of you. Your integrity is who you are.