Friday, Feb. 1 was a bittersweet day for Ken Groholski.
On one hand, he was entering his retirement years and probably more games of golf. On the other hand, he was finalizing the sale of Eastling Insurance, a business he has been in charge of the past 47 years. He sold the business to Sandie Wilz.
Groholski took over the business from his father-in-law in 1967.
“My father-in-law became ill and wanted out of the insurance business so he offered it to me,” Groholski said.
Prior to that Groholski had worked for his father-in-law in the insurance business and cucumber pickling business.
During his time as a business owner in Manawa, he was deeply involved in the community. He said he served on the city council and was mayor for 10 years. He has been a member of the Manawa Lions Club for 45 years, serving as president for some of those years. He is a former president of the Jaycees chapter as well as the Manawa Chamber of Commerce.
More golf in the summertime is on Groholski’s retirement agenda, as is spending more time at a property he shares in northern Wisconsin.
“In the past I haven’t been using it as much as I would have liked. I hope to do more of that,” he said.
Other than that, he’s not sure what to expect from retirement.
“It’s been 47 years so you don’t know what you are going to feel,” Groholski said. “I talk to all my friends and they say they are so busy after they retire, they are busier than when they weren’t retired. But still, I’ve been doing this for 47 years. I have some reservations about it.”
His reservations don’t extend to the future of the business.
“I’m confident in Sandie that everything will be in good hands as far as my business goes,” he said. “I had offers from other people. One wanted to take the assets of the business and move them to another city. He did not want the building. In Sandie’s case, she was willing to purchase the building plus the assets of the insurance business. So that worked out better for me and much better for the community.”
Wilz acknowledged that she has “big shoes to fill” by taking over the agency from Groholski.
She is originally from the Milwaukee area, where she worked at an insurance agency in Menomonee Falls for many years. In all, Wilz has around 26 years of experience in the insurance industry.
She moved to Manawa in 2007 when she married her husband.
“I was partners with an agency so I brought that with me also. I have a strong base out of Milwaukee,” Wilz said.
She said Groholski contacted her about a year ago asking if she knew of anyone interested in buying his business.
“I think he was planting a seed,” she said.
After some convincing from her husband that it was time for her to take this step, she agreed to buy the business.
“I came over here Jan. 1 just to get myself acclimated with the insurance and the procedures and everything that happens here in the agency,” Wilz said.
The transition should be seamless, she said.
“Instead of talking to Ken, they’ll be talking to me,” she said.
Kristi Moeller, who has been with the agency for 11 years, will remain with the agency.
“I’m very fortunate she’s committed to staying on,” Wilz said.
Doug Hines will remain as an agent. Groholski will as stay on as an agent.
There will be an open house at the business on Friday, Feb. 22.
“[I am looking forward to] getting to know all the clients, getting to know all of the history of everyone here and the community,” Wilz said. “I’m looking forward to meeting everyone.”