More than 75 years ago my grandfather, Leo Martin, opened his insurance business to help protect Cornwall and area residents. The company has grown quite a bit since then but we’re proud to say it has always remained a family-run business built on trust, good service, strong products and community involvement.
The Early Years
After completing his schooling at Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School, Leo Martin worked in the banking industry for ten years. He then convinced his mother– my great grandmother– to convert a living room in the front of her 432 Water Street home into an office and approached Atlas Insurance Company in Montreal to represent them as an independent agent offering auto, home and commercial insurance to Cornwall, Ontario. The year was 1939. Leo Martin Insurance was born.
When he first got started, my grandfather hopped on his bike and travelled the streets to canvass new clients. All he had to work with was his rate manual and the occasional support of a few company reps. His first customer was local barber Alfie Charlebois.
Within a few months of the business opening, World War II started. The business was still a fledgling enterprise and the commissions didn’t yet allow for a living wage so Leo supported his income by selling War victory bonds along with life insurance.
The Growing Years
My grandfather built up his operation though the war-torn years, gradually expanding his clientele base. In 1946, he hired his first full-time employee,his cousin Pauline Forbes (nee Martin).
Never one to sit idle, Leo was a busy man. He became school board trustee for several years and then the chairman of the Secondary School Board in Eastern Ontario. He was one of the key players in advocating for a new high school (St. Lawrence H.S.) during his tenure. Leo also served as an alderman in the city of Cornwall during the 1950s.
A few other notable employees joined the team. In 1967, Mrs. Noel was hired to work at Leo Martin Insurance. She stayed with the agency for 28 years of and was an integral part of the day-to-day operations. Then, in 1974, Leo’s son-in-law, my father, Paul Boosamra (married to Louise Martin) came into the business and became an Associate of the Insurance Institute of Canada (now reference to as a chartered insurance professional).
Continuing on the tradition of community involvement, Paul served two terms on the board of United Way and two terms as president of the SD&G Insurance Agents Association. He was a member of the Kinsmen Club of Cornwall, the Sunrise Rotary Club, the Cornwall golf and country club and served on the very first board of the Le Village Business Improvement Area (BIA), formed in 1976.
With a growing staff, the company had relocate to a larger space. In 1978, Leo and his team relocated his operations to 365 Montreal Road. Shortly after the move, Nicole Pollard joined the team. Can you believe she’s still with us today?
After 45 years in business, my grandfather decided to retire from the brokerage. My parents, Paul and Louise took over the reigns. As time passed, more family came into the business: my uncle, Peter Boosamra and then me!
Then, in 1996, a young gentleman named Dave Laking came to Cornwall for a construction project. We met and he never left.
The Last Decade
Leo Martin Insurance Brokers has seen many changes. We moved into our current office at 111 Montreal Road in 2002; Dave started working for the company in 2011; Dave and I took full ownerships of the brokerage in 2013; and my father retired in 2015.
In spite of the shifting landscape, our business approach has remained the same after all these years— we aim to make insurance simple and work to educate our customers before they buy.
Throughout the decades, we’ve also carried on the tradition of giving back to our community. Dave is part of the Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, a member of Le Village BIA, the Cornwall Golf and Country Club and the SD&G Insurance Brokers Association. He’s also served as an executive member of the Cornwall Girls Hockey association. We are proud supporters of the Cornwall Community Hospital; Big Brothers & Sisters; hospice; and Crimestoppers.
As we close in on our 78th year of this legacy business, we pledge to continue to uphold my grandfather’s values and work ethic, and to continue serving Cornwall and area to the best of our abilities.
Thank you for your business!
Lianne and Dave Laking