Allen & Stults Celebrates 130 Years
The insurance agency has a long, rich history in Hightstown.
By 1920, the flu epidemic had led to the death of the company’s founders, Charles E. Stults and his uncle John E. Allen. That in turn led to the sale of the business to the family’s cousins, and it has since become Cranbury's A.S. Cole Son & Co. The insurance company went to the current president’s great-grandmother, Addy Stults, who lived on Stockton Street and was unusual at the time as a female businesswoman.
“She may have been the first [female] president of an insurance agency in New Jersey,” said her great-grandson, today's Allen & Stults Co. President and CEO Charles S. Stults III.
That’s just one of the historical tidbits Stults can offer at the drop of a hat. As he showed Patch around his office in honor of the business’ 130th anniversary this year, Stults, a trustee and the secretary of the Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society, said with a laugh that he’s a history buff “sort of out of necessity.”
Nowadays, the North Main Street office is divided by a long hallway, but Stults explained that it was once an alleyway between the Bank of Central New Jersey on the northern side and a dry goods store to the south. That latter store was first J.V. Davison and then Luria’s Department Store, a chain store that sold dry goods until the mid-1980s.
The building had belonged to the Stults family but became an office for the company around that time, Charles E. Stults III said. The department store and the Stults’ former savings and loan company coexisted in the building for several years, he added.
In the foyer, which is now covered, no doubt to visitors’ delight, a display case shows off the company’s many historical artifacts. Among them is a funeral bill from 1901—the customer got a $6 discount on the $118 cost, though it’s not clear why. Nearby, an old ledger shows an insurance bill from 1899, when a 5-year premium cost just $5.
In the old bank building stands a bank vault that’s now full of family documents and computer backups. Twin dials on the door, for the bank's president and vice president, control it together. “Both of them had to show up to work to be able to open the vault,” Stults explained. He knows the combination, he said, but rarely needs to lock it.
Across the hall, plaques of companies whose insurance Allen & Stults sold gives a sense of this outfit's history.
“Some of them don’t exist anymore, so we’ve outlasted a lot of the insurance companies,” Stults said. That includes the country’s first, the Insurance Company of North America, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin.
The third floor office, now Stults’, was the bank’s attic. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, he said, it used to be full of dirty antique items that now line the walls, like part of the old sign for the Bank of Central New Jersey. “I found that just shoved in the eaves of the third floor when I was renovating,” he said. He nearly cleaned it, he explained, before deciding to keep it as historically accurate as possible.
In that room hangs a proclamation from the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America recognizing that Chares E. Stults III, his father and grandfather have all been presidents of the association and have all served on its national board, creating over 70 years of continuity.
There’s no particular date set for a 130th celebration, but Stults said he’s been soliciting clients for pieces to include in a commemorative magazine some time in the fall. The booklet will serve as another milestone in the company's storied history.
“That way it will be around for time immemorial for people to read, hopefully decades in the future,” Stults said.