Growing up, Jack Blair never expected he would take over his family’s insurance company, but this year Nottingham Insurance celebrates its 100th year in business with Jack and his siblings carrying forward the fourth-generation legacy.
Lining the walls in Nottingham Insurance’s conference room are pictures of four generations of owners. The black and white photographs trace Jack’s lineage and the history of the company. The photos start with his straight-faced great grandfather, followed by his grandfather and father, and end with a picture of Jack and his brother Greg as little kids smiling gleefully.
Jack grew up in the same Nottingham Road home that his father ran the insurance company from. During summers, he worked for his father and said he had no intentions of going into the family business then.
“I learned enough that I know that I didn’t want to get into it,” he said. After college, though, he had a change of heart and is now running the company with Greg and their partner Peter Toft.
Originally named Nutt Agency, Jack’s great grandfather Major Voorhies Nutt started the insurance company from his home in 1917.
Hamilton was a vastly different landscape a century ago, Jack said, with many farms and a Grange Hall on Nottingham Way. Nutt started the company selling insurance primarily to farmers.
Eventually, the company became M.V. Nutt and Son when Nutt’s son, Stanley, went to work for his father in 1938. Nutt retired and left Stanley, Jack’s grandfather, the agency. During the war, Jack said his grandmother Ada ran the business while Stanley was enlisted.
Stanley and Ada’s daughter Beverly, Jack’s mother, worked in the agency as well. Her husband, Jack Blair Sr. resigned his position as draftsman at General Motors to join the family-run agency.
When Stanley retired, he passed the reigns to Jack Sr., and he and Beverly raised the three children in the Nottingham Road home with the insurance agency in the front of the house and the family living in the back, Jack explained.
“It was always a treat when Dad let us help with tasks in his office,” said Janet Engelke, the eldest of the Blair siblings and VP of operations at Nottingham Insurance.
“I think we all took for granted the fact that Dad was always around and never realized what it meant for others whose fathers ‘went to work’ every day,” she said.
Greg fondly remembers his childhood helping clean the office at night and stuffing calendars into envelopes to send to clients around the holidays. Despite all this, none of siblings dreamed of going into the family insurance business one day. And Stanley never put any pressure on his children to join the family business.
“My dad was really good about that,” Jack said. “He didn’t push it, but it was always available to us.”
Jack went to Princeton University and received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. As much as he loved psychology, he didn’t want to spend eight more years in school pursuing it as a career. He briefly worked as bartender and waited tables, but it wasn’t long before he went back to work for his father at the agency in 1983.
At the time, Jack said he was the sixth employee at the agency and their primary business was personal lines of insurance including home and auto. Greg, who worked for the state in the construction division and as a DJ for three years, followed into the family business shortly after.
In 1994, Jack Sr., now 82, retired leaving his sons in charge of the agency. In the 23 years under Jack and Greg’s leadership, Nottingham Insurance has grown from seven employees to 40 with two locations. Nottingham Insurance moved to its current location in the Golden Crest Corporate Center on Route 33 in 2000, where Jack says they still have room to grow their workforce.
In 2004, Nottingham merged with Fell and Moon Agency and acquiring their Yardley, Pennsylvania, location. In the merger, Peter Toft joined the firm as a partner and manages the Yardley office.
In 1997, Janet joined the company after working as the Aquatic Director at the YMCA for a change of pace, she said, and to be available for her three daughters.
‘There’s a long history that we have here that we have a lot of respect for.’
Not only are they keeping the business alive and thriving, they are keeping the values their father set forth. Stanley, who was active in the Rotary Club and YMCA, taught his children the importance of giving back and community involvement. Jack serves on the board of Project Freedom, a non-profit that enables persons with disabilities to live independently and the YMCA. Greg is on the board of Robert Wood Johnson Hospital at Hamilton Foundation Board.
“Our family has deep roots in the history of Hamilton,” Greg said. “We have been active in the community each generation. My brother and I have continued that tradition of giving back to our community both financially and by volunteering our time to the many wonderful organizations that are the strength of our community.”
They also encourage their employees to be active in the community, and each month the company holds a dress-down day for a $5 donation in which the company matches. Proceeds are given to a different charity each month in which their employees select.
“We’re still a local business,” Jack said. “We’re a Hamilton business. We grew up here. We went to school here. We work here. So we know a lot of people and they have been very supportive of us and we have been supportive of them.”
While the agency’s business has always included personal insurance, over the years Jack and Greg have expanded their commercial insurance business and group benefits and life insurance.
Jack says the company has grown more than he thinks his father could have imagined and plans to keep the agency growing.
“We have a lot of young employees now that are doing really well and we want to give them the opportunity to flourish,” Jack said. “We’ve got some room to grow.”
“When I look back at the dedication that my grandfather and dad and now my brothers have had in growing the business and keeping the clients we have, it’s no wonder that we are still around,” Janet said.
Jack, who lives in Hamilton and raised his two children in Hamilton, says many his employees work in Hamilton as well. Moving the company never crossed his mind and despite their recent growth into Pennsylvania, Nottingham Insurance’s home will always be in Hamilton.
“There’s a long history that we have here that we have a lot of respect for,” Jack said. “When I got in here all of our business was based in Hamilton. As we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve branched out geographically but at the end of the day, this has always been our home.”