Last month, a Kosciusko business that traces its roots back to the early 20th century moved into a facility that has been a part of the landscape of this Attala County city for more than a century. The relocation of the insurance agency Tyler, King & Ryder Inc. reflected the business’ present-day growth and its vision for tomorrow while paying homage and enhancing the community’s rich history.
It was especially gratifying for Toby Tyler, president of Tyler, King & Ryder. He has spent his life in Kosciusko, and remembers as a child going to the agency’s new headquarters back when it was a dry goods store. But he was quick to point out that the relocation was just as much about the agency’s future as it was about the town’s past.
In 1922, an insurance agency known as Atkinson & Lucas opened its doors in the M&F Bank. It would operate under that name for more than a half-century until it merged with Craft Insurance Agency, which was founded in 1948, and changed its name to England & Ferguson in 1974.
This is roughly the time Tyler began his studies at Mississippi State University, where he earned a degree in general business. Tyler returned home and went to work with a local bank. It was there that he was approached about entering the insurance business.
“I decided to take the gamble, and started hustling,” Tyler said with a chuckle.
Tyler started his insurance career in 1979, and five years later bought the business. In 1988, Tyler Insurance merged with England & Ferguson, creating Ferguson, Tyler and King.
A plethora of acquisitions and expansions followed. In 1990, the agency bought Insurance Services of Durant and Durant Insurance Agency, and merged the two to form Robertson Insurance Agency. And, that same year the company obtained first option on the George Mitchell Agency in Goodman.
In 1992, principal Warren Ferguson sold his interest in the company. And, the agency formed Heilbronner & Associates, P.A., to handle life and health insurance.
The pace only quickened from there. From 1996, the year Ferguson, Tyler & King merged with Jackson & Renfroe and changed its name to Tyler, King & Ryder, through 2005, the company bought, opened or merged with 13 agencies or branches located in Carthage, Ackerman, Goodman, Madison, Starkville, Tupelo, Brandon, Oxford and Olive Branch.
However, perhaps the momentous event was when Tyler, King & Ryder was itself purchased by M&F Bank in 1999, becoming part of the M&F Insurance Group Inc. Tyler said becoming a part of M&F Insurance Group, composed of 10 agencies, has been a shot in the arm and has grown along with its expanding parent company, M&F Bank.
Today, Tyler, King & Ryder and the rest of the M&F Insurance Group offers business/commercial, title, automobile, home, condominium and renters, liability, life, health and long-term care insurance products. Serving clients from the metro Jackson area to the Tennessee line, Tyler, King & Ryder employs a staff of 10, while the group as a whole has a payroll of approximately 35 employees.
Back to the future
Tyler made it clear that his agency and the entire group plans on more growth in the future. A problem he and his team had, though, was the agency’s facility could not accommodate the agency’s current business, much less tomorrow’s needs.
So, Tyler and his team began looking for a new headquarters beginning in November 2005. They looked all around Kosciusko before deciding on a downtown building with a long and interesting history.
In 1905, Benny Webb opened the building as a dry goods store. The building would be home to the store for decades until it was purchased and became Klegg’s Stereo City. The building had been on the market for a couple of years when the insurance agency purchased it.
Tyler, King & Ryder, which executed the design work in-house, went to great lengths to preserve as much of the buildings look as possible. The original round windows were retained as well as the original floors and ceilings and the tin canopy on the front of the facility. The agency left the 17-foot-high ceilings in the lobby, but, in an attempt to cut down on the heating and cooling bills, lowered them elsewhere.
In addition to the street level, the facility offers a lower level housing a kitchen and storage area and an upper level that now is the agency’s conference room. Tyler said the agency is thrilled it could support the city and that local merchants were happy to see the old building back in operation. Internally, the agency and group, which moved into the renovated building March 12, are glad to have the extra space as its clients continue to grow.
While the agency is celebrating the past, it also is excited about its future when it comes to its human resources. The officers of the M&F Insurance Group have decades of combined experience, and include Tyler, vice president/secretary Doug King and vice presidents Dan Ryder, Robby Robertson and Wayne Heilbronner.
But, the group also has some young, energetic talent, many of whom are related to the leadership of M&F Insurance Group and M&F Bank. These include: Toby Tyler’s son, Bradley, whose been with the group for six years; Dan Ryder’s son, Jason Ryder, who is the area manager in Starkville; Rob Autry, whose father is an executive with M&F Bank; Rhea Young; and, Jon Paul.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.