Life-long insurance agent Al Orelt has just moved into a building that had once scooped and served frozen yogurt and custard on Belleville’s east end.
Orelt and his staff are open for business at the metro-east’s newest Allstate Insurance office located inside the former Mardio’s Frozen Custard shop.
Orelt recently invited business writer Will Buss to his new office and talked about the recent transition:
Q: What did you change about the building?
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A: “We didn’t keep any custard machines, but I want to add some ice cream socials, sometime, just to kind of bring back the memories. So that is something we have planned in the future. We also want to give out some ice cream scoops to new customers when I get them. We’ve got Allstate scoops on order.”
Q: How long have you been working in the insurance business?
A: “I’ve been in the insurance business for 31 years. I was previously with (Warma Witter Kreisler & Associates Inc.) in O’Fallon for about 28 years, and the opportunity arose for Allstate. My daughter just graduated from Webster University and was looking for something to do, and I said how about this career choice? Allstate was available, and we had the opportunity to own our own agency. There was no one here on the east end of Belleville, so I just saw a great opportunity to be able to bring my daughter into my own business.”
Q: Have you worked anywhere else in the industry?
A: “I worked for Equitable Insurance for the first three years. They were primarily a life insurance company, and John Kreisler from Warma Witter Kreisler gave me an opportunity to do health insurance and employee benefits. So I worked out of there and primarily did employee benefits for the last 28 years.”
Q: How does your affiliation with Allstate change your work?
A: “With changes in the industry, this gives me more flexibility.”
Q: What changes?
A: “The health insurance changes. (The Affordable Care Act) has changed a lot of the way insurance is sold and presented now.”
A: “It makes it more complicated. The health insurance industry is still a moving target, as far as upcoming changes. So this is a little more predictable with what we’re able to do here. But I’ll still be offering all forms of insurance, primarily auto, home and life.”
Q: What led you into the insurance industry?
A: “I was a pre-med student and worked in a hospital. And when I got out of college, I decided that I was going to go into medical sales instead of medical school. And they told me I needed a years experience before I got into that field. So I took an insurance job with Equitable to get some experience. And I did so well, I was seventh in the nation for first-year, new (Equitable Insurance) agents. I did so well, so I figured, why go back and go into medical sales? This is a pretty good career, so I chose this career.”
Q: Is that agency still around?
A: “Yes. They’re now AXA. There are a few agents (in the metro-east). Like so many companies, a lot of companies have merged, especially in the health insurance industry. They’re constantly merging. It seems like there are fewer players.”
Q: Why did you join Allstate and open your own agency?
A: “They only had one agent in Belleville, and he’s on the west end. So it was a great opportunity in a great city.”
Q: What separates your agency from others?
A: “Service. We figure our service is better than most, and we’ve got a brand name behind us. I’ve been accused many times of holding too many hands in this business and walking through things. But I’d rather treat people as family and friends than as just a customer.”
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your work?
A: “Helping people. A lot of times, they don’t realize what they have. I try and simplify things and explain it to them. So I think keeping it simple and bringing it down to a level where they can understand it is very important, because it is a really tough subject. So we take a little more time in explaining how things work.”
Job: Owner, Albert Orelt Agency, Allstate Insurance Co. at 1030 Carlyle Ave. in Belleville (618-215-6058)
Outlook: “It was a great opportunity in a great city.”