Hazelwood Insurance moves to ‘dream location’
Hazelwood Insurance Group is moving to La Crosse into the recently renovated Bank of La Crosse building located at 112 S. Main Street in La Crosse. The 15th anniversary of the opening of Hazelwood Insurance Group was celebrated by the grand opening/ribbon cutting at the new location.
Derek Hazelwood, owner of Hazelwood Insurance Group, said when he first decided to open his business in 2002 he talked to his father about how cool it would be to put his office in the old bank building. At the time he thought he needed the retail traffic that South Hill offered and decided to lease the former location on E. Atlantic Street.
It was not until the Spring of 2015 when Hazelwood was driving through La Crosse and noticed a for sale/rent sign at the Bank of La Crosse building that he decided he was going to do it. He was determined to purchase the building immediately. He called that same day and said he was going to buy it before he even knew the amount being asked.
He was able to close the deal in May of 2015 and immediately started renovating the interior to fit his needs. He and a close friend worked around the clock and were able to finish the remodel four months later in September.
Hazelwood said the main reason he decided to make the move was because the business needed more space, particularly a bigger conference room. He knew the conference room at the Bank of La Crosse building would be the right size, and he said he started his focus during renovations on making that room perfect.
He now has a state-of-the-art office with new audio/visual equipment that he says can be compared to the big offices in Richmond and other large cities.
After the remodel was complete and while he was preparing his clients and employees for the move, he did not let the space go to waste. Hazelwood used the building as a kind of community center, letting local organizations utilize the space for meetings, hanging out and watching television with friends and hosting community meals during the holidays.
“The space was like my living room,” he said. “We had chairs set up, and the TVs were on.”
Not only will Hazelwood use the office for his insurance business, but he will also be using the conference room to host driver improvement courses along with other instructional purposes for the community. He said he has noticed many clients are unable to attend the specific dates of most driver improvement courses, so he will be offering classes every other Saturday and on a daily basis by appointment with individuals. He has two AAA-certified driver improvement instructors on hand to help meet his clients’ schedule needs.
Hazelwood said he likes to believe his company is more than just an insurance agency, but a community facility that is there for members of the community to use as needed. He said his main focus is on what is best for the client and then what is best for the company.
One of the ways he hopes to give back to the community is by keeping the rich history of the new location alive. The Bank of La Crosse building may have experienced a major interior remodel, but the history of the bank is still intact. The bank opened in 1923 and was one of the few banks to survive during the Great Depression. Hazelwood plans on keeping one of the antique vaults open to the public for tours to see the original safety deposit boxes and the original safe used in the bank.
To go even further than keeping the history of the bank alive, Hazelwood plans to keep the history of La Crosse alive with railroad and train items decorating the office.
Hazelwood said that he has always felt a connection to the Bank of La Crosse building — it is where he opened his first savings account. Now it is where he plans to help others save money while filling their insurance needs.
“I thank God that my dream, 15 years later, is here today,” he said.