By Phyl Newbeck
David Palmer wants to clear up the misconception that insurance work is boring. “I love what I do,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 17 years and it’s something I’m really passionate about. It’s exciting because you’re always meeting new people and looking at unique scenarios. It’s a really great industry.”
Palmer started out doing claims work but found that unfulfilling. Rather than make a complete career change, he learned what he could about the industry and decided that selling policies was a better fit for his personality. In 2003 he started Palmer Insurance out of his home in Shelburne. “It was a leap of faith and a bit risky but I believed in it,” he said. Initially Palmer represented one insurance company but he soon decided he’d rather be an independent agent. Eight years ago he moved his office from South Burlington to Hinesburg and in 2011 he acquired another location in Williston.
Palmer said roughly half his work is personal insurance including both home and automobile, while the other half pertains to businesses ranging from contractors to apartment building operators and restaurants. He has clients from Derby to Bennington but most are from Chittenden and Addison Counties. “What I love about this side of the business,” he said “is I can provide people with options. It’s nice to educate people and help them select the most appropriate policy.”
Palmer may spend his weekdays at a desk but on the weekends in the spring he gets to roll up his sleeves and do manual labor at his family’s sugar house in Shelburne. Palmer’s grandmother – the first Vermont woman sugarmaker to be inducted into the American Maple Museum Hall of Fame – started the operation in the 1940s. Palmer’s father took over for her and he inherited the business in 2011. Palmer’s Sugarhouse is a small operation which only produces a few hundred gallons annually. “It’s more about having people come in and sharing the experience,” Palmer said. “We’re very rustic and we don’t have state of the art equipment but that’s intentional.” For seven weekends in the spring, the sugarhouse offers live music, sleigh rides and all kinds of maple treats. “We’re providing an authentic, traditional Vermont experience the way my dad envisioned it,” Palmer said.
Both the sugarhouse and the insurance business are family affairs for Palmer. His mother and two nieces work with him in the office and his three daughters love to spend time in the sugarhouse. At the sugarhouse, Palmer sees people relax as they revisit an earlier era. “We bring people back in time and let them check their troubles at the door,” he said. Likewise, at his desk, Palmer can ease the worries of those who sit down across from him by helping them determine the right kind of coverage, find a policy they can afford and then, if necessary, help them collect on a claim without too much interruption in their lives. “I enjoy working and there’s a lot to be done in sugaring and the insurance world,” Palmer said. “They’re rewarding in different ways.”