Slocum Agency growing despite challenges of market

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One local real estate and insurance agency has survived the consolidations and the buyouts that have become the bane of smaller businesses and, in fact, is growing.

“The reality is we had outgrown our last building and it took us ten years to realize it,” says Philip Slocum from behind a clean desk – the exceptions are the cashews in a jar, a bottle of wine and a bottle of bubbly. He is in an office that looks like it could easily accommodate two to three more desks.

All that space – Phil’s office is just a small part of it – is in a freestanding building at 333 Centerville Rd., which is just before the on-ramp to northbound traffic to Route 95. As Rhode Islanders do, Phil identifies the building by its prior uses.

“It’s where Prudential and then the IRS used to be,” he says.

It is now home to The Slocum Agency Inc. & Slocum Realty that is both a real estate and independent insurance agency.

The roots to the business go back to 1949 and to Phil and his brother Bob’s father, George Slocum. George started the insurance business from his home in Buttonwoods and then opened the agency’s first office in Wilde’s Corner in a row of businesses that included Sam’s NY System Wieners. The office was above Bayshore Pharmacy.

As fate would have it, the agency outgrew the Wilde’s Corner office, and just as they were preparing to move to Greenwich Avenue in Apponaug, a fire consumed most of the plaza that eventually resulted in the building being torn down. To this day, the lot is vacant.

Then the Greenwich Avenue site became a tight fit.

“We ran out of space,” said Bob, who runs the insurance side of the business. The two brothers initiated a search. They knew they wanted to be in the “greater Apponaug zone” with the bulk of their customers and they knew they wanted an office large enough to house both businesses. Fifteen are employed in the real estate business and another 12 in the insurance business.

Last Tuesday, the Slocums held a grand opening for the new building, which explains the bottles on Phil’s desk. Phil used the occasion to contrast the year his father started the insurance business and today. 1949 was the year VW sold its first Beetle in this country. Gas was 17 cents a gallon and the average car cost $1,420. The average cost of a home was $1,911 and the hourly wage was 70 cents. Phil cited the statistics, remarking, “and here we are today.”

A real growth spurt for the company came in the 1970s when it became a Century 21 real estate agency.

“Real estate really took off in 1978,” said Phil. “My mother decided to come out with another career.”

Phil credits his mother, Hazel Slocum, who is now 88, with the foresight and vision to build the real estate business.

“She is the foundation of everything we know to be real estate,” he said.

Phil is a believer in real estate. He says the agency has been through buyers, sellers and flat markets and still, “you can’t beat homeownership.”

The agency has prepared for the future with the latest in technology and programs, not to mention space for additional growth. And with it is a third generation of Slocums with Phil’s son, Nick, and his nephew, Christopher, prepared to carry the Slocum Agency forward.

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