Q&A with Roy Ovenell, Owner of Roy A. Ovenell Insurance Agency, Inc.
Covering Risks and Taking Risks
Enjoy Lake City (ELC) recently visited Roy Ovenell at his agency on Lake City Way to talk about the upcoming Car Show, the insurance business and a few fun adventures.
ELC: Can you talk a little about the Lake City Car Show and how you got involved in it?
This year, the Car Show is on Sunday, August 6 in the Bank of America parking lot during the Salmonfest street fair. We have a lot of regular attendees who have come for years. I helped out 10 to 15 years with a series of people who ran it. Eventually they all moved on and so I was kind of the last guy standing, so now I do the Car Show! I like to serve the community and this is one thing I do. Last year we had about 40 cars, but we could accommodate 70.
We have room for all kinds of cars, vintage all the way up to the present – trucks, military vehicles, commercial type vehicles and special interests. So if somebody buys a brand new fancy car, bring it in!
ELC: Have there been any rare vehicles in the show?
One was a 1955 Mercedes 300 SL which was the first real sports car that used the gull wing. Very unique car, not very practical to drive, worth a fair amount. It was pretty cool to have that at the show.
ELC: How long have you been in the insurance field and why did you decide to open your own agency?
I was 24 when I started and I had very little overhead. I had a ’71 Chevy Impala and I loved Top Ramen. You don’t have to have a big investment so it’s easy to start building your business and Farmers has a program where they advance you money. If you meet certain sales goals, you don’t have to pay it all back, so they give you something to live on initially. I’ve been an agent for 29 years.
ELC: Why did you choose Lake City as your business location?
There was an agent who left the business and the manager needed somebody to take over, so I came to Lake City. I bought a house near Matthews Beach which I rent out now. We moved to Lynnwood when my daughter was born. I’ve been in this building for about a year and a half.
ELC: What are your most asked for products and services?
Home, auto, renter’s and life insurance. Also business and umbrella insurance.
ELC: What is umbrella insurance?
Umbrella insurance gives you liability coverage in excess of what you have on your home and auto. For example, I ride a bike from Lynnwood to work when the weather’s ok. A year and a half ago, I was hit by a car. I was very fortunate. I had to stay the night at Harborview for observation, but I didn’t have to have surgery, no permanent injuries, only a small scar. But if that had happened just slightly different, I could have been permanently disabled and that to me is the reason why the person who hit me would have wanted to have an umbrella policy. Homeowners coverage may not be enough to pay damages. Those claims can be really, really high. So the umbrella insurance gives you a million in coverage up and above that.
ELC: Are there any claims that stick out in your mind?
A couple years ago I had a claim that was a little unusual that actually made the news. Customer was going to work. They live on the west side of the sound and they were the first one on the ferry. It was a very stormy day and a big wave came over and crushed the front of the car. Just the amount of water dented the hood and broke the windshield. Saltwater was inside everywhere corroding things right away, and the car was a total loss.
ELC: What would people be surprised to know about you?
Most people think of insurance agents as risk averse, not taking risks. I’ve done a lot of mountain climbing, and some time ago, a group of us attempted to climb Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in North and South America.
We didn’t get to the top but we got stuck in a storm at an elevation of 20,500 feet which is about 6,000 feet higher than Mt. Rainier and higher than Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. So it’s possible that for those two or three days, we were the highest people in elevation in the world. There’s nothing taller in the western hemisphere and it was winter in the Himalayas when people are not climbing because it’s certain death.
It was 20 below zero and we were in a tent with 30 to 40 mile winds so the wind chill factor was off the charts. We had climbing experience and had planned for all the bad things that could happen, so we all came back alive with no permanent injuries.
ELC: Have you made any climbs this year?
My son and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim last summer. You hike down a mile, spend a couple days and hike up the other side so it’s the opposite of hiking a mountain. And there was a heat wave. It hit 132 degrees at the bottom of the Grand Canyon while we were there.
ELC: What are some of your favorite places to visit here in Lake City?
I walk almost every day. I like going to the post office and Tweedy and Popp hardware. Elliot Bay Brewery is a good place to have lunch. If I need a watch battery, I go to the Watch and Battery Center. It’s great that instead of having a bunch of national companies, we have a lot of smaller family-owned businesses.
ELC: What is Lake City’s biggest challenge?
Homelessness. But it’s all over the city, not just Lake City.
ELC: What are Lake City’s biggest opportunities?
The fact that real estate investors find this area attractive. If buildings are updated or senior housing is going in, I like the idea that we’re kind of building up. People need more affordable housing. Lake City is slightly more affordable than other parts of the city.
ELC: What do you like best about Lake City?
I like the diversity of the people who live here. I’ve always been interested in what other people experience and where they’re from. My mother is from Norway. When you meet people from Asia or Africa and other parts of the world, it’s nice to find out what their experiences are like and what they like about America.
Roy A. Ovenell Insurance Agency, Inc. 13751 Lake City Way, Suite 222, Seattle WA 98125
Open M-F, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. or by appointment.
206-362-9062 www.farmersagent.com/rovenell firstname.lastname@example.org