gary-rossInterViews: Conversations with Ellicottville-ians

Get to Know: Gary Ross

Title: President, Weed Ross Insurance Agency

By Jann Wiswall

A Few Facts: When John Weed decided to retire in 1987, he tapped Gary Ross to take over his insurance agency, which Ross renamed the Weed Ross Agency. Ross has been a fixture in the Ellicottville area ever since.

He and his wife Barbara, a retired math teacher with the Springville schools, have been married for more than 40 years and live in Napoli. Gary grew up in Olean and attended Jamestown Community College. Barbara is an Oil City, Pa., native and got her degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. They are avid outdoors people and enjoy flying their private plane.

Ross’s insurance agency offers the full range of personal auto, homeowners and life insurance coverage, as well as coverage for businesses, landlords, farmers, contractors, commercial vehicles and more. The agency serves as a broker for Travelers, Allstate and Progressive insurance companies, as well as a number of smaller insurers that know the area. Weed Ross also writes short-term policies for vendors and others who participate in Ellicottville’s many festivals and celebrations.

Q: What’s different about the insurance business in Ellicottville?

A: Because of Holiday Valley and HoliMont, we have a niche market in seasonal home insurance policies. Seasonal homes are not a market the big insurance agencies seek out because the risks are higher when homes are not occupied or are rented by non-owners. Most claims for vacation homes are related to freezing pipes that cause water damage that may go unnoticed for weeks. So when there’s a problem, it tends to be a bigger problem.

We work with a group of excellent regional insurance companies that understand Ellicottville’s unique marketplace. They may require owners to install freeze alarms or turn off the water when the home is unoccupied, but that helps to keep premiums lower.

Q: There are lots of online insurance companies in the market these days. How do you compete with them?

A: Most of the online companies are in the business for volume. They may sometimes have lower premiums, but their policies are not personalized. At Weed Ross, our staff members talk with each and every client about their needs. We ask the right questions in order to design policies that work for their needs and budgets. When a client later makes a claim or has a problem, our staff already knows him/her and can work with them on a personal level. The staff is, without question, our biggest asset and is what makes us stand out from the competition.

Q: Ellicottville is waiting for FEMA to approve revised floodplain maps for the town and village. How will the new maps impact your clients?

A: As of Oct. 1, flood insurance premiums through all insurers went up by 25 percent, so all home and business owners that are required to carry flood insurance have been hit with increases of hundreds of dollars. When FEMA approves the new maps, many property owners in Ellicottville will no longer be required to have flood insurance, and that will mean big savings for them.

Q: What makes owning a business in Ellicottville unique?

A: I think most people will say that when you work in Ellicottville, your clients and customers become friends as well. It’s a wonderful group of progressive business people who have the best interests of the community at heart and would do anything for anyone.