Stahlka Agency Plants Roots in Hamburg
Mark Stahlka lives on Old Lakeshore Road in Lakeview, so often, he would drive by the commercial property on 4250 Southwestern Blvd. and think to himself that it would be an ideal location for his insurance business. He appreciated the visibility of being in the high-traffic area of Southwestern Boulevard and McKinley Parkway in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Town of Hamburg.
When Stahlka Agency, which Mark runs with his brother, Brad Stahlka, first established a Southtowns presence in 2011, they decided to rent in the Village of Orchard Park on Princeton Place, but the location was buried in the building a bit. After several years, the brothers also wanted an opportunity to own the building where the business would reside in the Southtowns.
They already owned the property where Stahlka Insurance originated in Williamsville. So, when the 5,000-square-foot property on Southwestern Boulevard, formerly occupied by an eye care center, became available last year, Mark Stahlka said he saw it as a fit for the business and its growth. “I thought it would be an ideal spot for our Southtowns location, where we could kind of build a home there. It started as sort of a drive-by idea,” he said. “This is kind of my neighborhood, it’s where I live and these are the people that I know, so it just felt like a natural fit to start actually growing some roots here and owning something here.”
Brad Stahlka, who lives in Williamsville, said he liked the opportunity for his brother and some of the employees that are already involved in the community to be afforded the opportunity to become further ingrained in Hamburg. “It’s just really nice to be able to come out here and support that, so we’re excited,” he said. “In Williamsville, when we built the building 12 years ago, we didn’t know where that was going to go. We had a tenant in the other space and we said, ‘Well, maybe someday we can take over that space’ and three or four years later, we occupied the whole building. I think this gives us the same opportunity to grow, hire people from the area and expand.”
The brothers’ grandfather started the business in 1957 as a home, auto and life insurance agency. Their father later joined him in business. Since Mark and then Brad came along, the business has grown from four to 47 people. Mark grew it in the area of commercial insurance and Brad opened up an employee benefits practice which covers health insurance. Employees are about evenly split working on the two practices. Stahlka Agency was originally located in Williamsville on Transit Road, before a move to Main Street in the mid-1970s. When the business outgrew that space 12 years ago, the brothers purchased land on 6724 Main St. for its new building.
The Southtowns office was started when Stahlka Agency purchased five insurance agencies in a period of six years, starting in 2011. They were all Orchard Park agencies, so naturally the two began renting space there. According to the two, renting allowed the business to grasp the lay of the land while the Stahlkas figured out where it should go from there. However, employees always seemed to wonder whether the Stahlkas would eventually roll all of the work back to the Williamsville office, Mark said. As it turned out, a move to Hamburg was in the cards. The office in Orchard Park had no windows so the open concept of 4250 Southwestern Blvd. and all of the light that comes with it have been a welcome addition. Mark said it was appealing that there would not be a need for significant structural cost to change the building, though he described the renovation work that went into it as a “significant investment.” “There were no windows to the outside world in our last office, so the morale of the people immediately changed when we moved them in here because now they have sunlight all day,” he said. “We did what needed to be done inside but maintained what makes the building unique.”
The work began on the Stahlka Agency office in January and lasted five months. Employees moved into the office in June. Last month, New Health Chiropractic moved into the back of the building, where renovation work had taken four months to complete. Also in the building, upstairs, are another tenant and an apartment. “From an investment standpoint, it gave us some rental income as well, which was attractive,” Mark said. The business already has taken the opportunity to grow, adding a few employees since the move in June. Mark said there are plans to add a few more over the next year or two.
With most of their competition downtown, he said it is nice to have the infrastructure in place to build in-roads in the community. “From a business perspective, we see the area having great growth potential and that is sort of being ignored by some of our competitors,” Mark said. During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the business on Sept. 28, Stahlka Agency presented a check for $1,500 to each the Town and Village of Hamburg Recreation Departments. All of the proceeds from the chicken barbecue held that day, plus an extra $2,000 from the business, were donated to the recreation departments. Mark said his children have been involved in the town’s recreation programs and he’s coached for years. “It felt like a natural thing to do as a way to welcome ourselves to the town and let people know we have passion for youth athletics and would like to help out in that area,” he said. Stahlka Agency and New Health Chiropractic also held free giveaways at the chicken barbecue. “We didn’t know how this would go and the fact that people showed up is really cool. It makes you feel like this is a good place to be,” Mark said.
Source: Hamburg Sun, Friday, October 13, 2017