Case Jarvis McClung is only two months old, but already his proud grandparents, Jim Ed and Jennifer McClung, are touting Baby McClung as a fifth-generation owner of Jarvis Insurance Agency, one of Somerset’s oldest businesses now noting its 80th anniversary and counting.
In this day and time when mergers are commonplace, rare is a business that survives in its same form for eight decades. Even more unusual is a family-operated company founded during the Great Depression, survived World War II, numerous recessions and global conflicts and all the while owned by the same family and still growing.
Apparently there are no plans to break the family line. Grandpa Jim Ed makes no bones about mentioning his new grandson as being in the line of succession.
Initially known as Hays-Jarvis Insurance Agency, the company was founded in 1933 by Edward Jarvis and his wife, Lillian White Jarvis. Hays in the original name was W.O. Hayes, a partner who sold his interest in the insurance agency shortly after its founding. Jarvis Insurance has been in downtown Somerset since its inception.
Jim McClung, son-in-law of Lillian Jarvis, joined Jarvis Insurance in 1948 and was a fixture in the business community until his death in 1995. Jim was married to Jacquelyn Jarvis, daughter of Edward and Lillian.
Jim McClung’s son, Jim Ed, now president of Jarvis Insurance, is the third generation of the Jarvis-McClung clan to head the business. Jim Ed’s son, Preston, new father of Case, is vice president of Jarvis Insurance and the fourth generation of the family to become a part of the agency. Preston joined Jarvis Insurance in 2009 after graduating from the University of Kentucky. His wife and the mother of Case is the former Cami Huff.
Jim Ed is a graduate of Western Kentucky University. With a degree in history, Jim Ed has been an acute observer of the explosion of growth in Somerset and Pulaski County since he joined the insurance agency in 1974. His wife, the former Jennifer Waddle, assists in operation of the agency.
Jarvis Insurance initially was located in historic Beecher Hotel on South Main Street. The agency later moved to the second floor of the former First and Farmers Bank building on the south side of Fountain Square. In 1962, when the bank building was razed to make way for the existing First and Farmers Bank, Jarvis Insurance moved to its current location on the north side of Fountain Square.
The present location of Jarvis Insurance has an historical notation. Thirty Seven Public Square is on Lot 42 of the original plat of the town of Somerset made in 1818. The building that houses Jarvis Insurance was constructed in 1894, originally a one-story structure but a second floor was added later.
That’s not all. Former Kentucky Governor Edwin P. Morrow at one time owned the building at 37 Public Square. He sold the property in 1919 to his brother, Boyd Morrow. Somerset Post Office was in the building for more than two decades.
Edward Jarvis, co-founder of the agency, was the son of Martin Luther Jarvis, a well-known attorney in the region. He served as commonwealth’s attorney and circuit judge. He received a presidential appointment from President Warren Harding as federal judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Jarvis Avenue in Somerset is named for Judge Jarvis. His two-story colonial home, built in 1906, still stands at the corner of Jarvis Avenue and Sagasser Street.
Edward Jarvis died from a heart attack at age 41. His death left his wife Lillian at the helm of a business in an era when there were few female business owners. She faced the challenge, grew the business and was active in civic affairs until her death in 1979.
Jim Ed stands amazed at changes in the insurance industry and the burst of growth in Somerset.
“Changes are in light years,” he said. “Everything used to be centered in the downtown area. It was a farming economy during the early years and Saturday was a big day for commerce. Everybody came to town on Saturday. A sack of Holsomback hamburgers was a big treat.”
Those were the days when most business was done face to face and every transaction was on paper. “Now, we still talk with our customers, but so much business is done by telephone, and computers have replaced paper files,” Jim Ed noted.
Jim Ed remembers when downtown businesses started drifting toward the truck route during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The migration began after U.S. 27 was four-laned between Somerset and Burnside and Tradewind shopping center opened a cluster of then-unbelievably modern businesses.
Jarvis Insurance didn’t move, and there are no regrets. The agency currently has a staff of six and represents major national and regional companies. Jarvis purchased in 1995 Mutual Insurance Agency from Bob Niekirk.
“Downtown is still a great place for Jarvis Insurance,” Jim Ed declared. Businesses with historical roots like Jarvis Insurance are a solid base for downtown revitalization.
“It’s a perfect location for us,” said Jim Ed. Out the front door, in plain view, is the magnificent fountain flowing at the center of recently renovated Fountain Square.