Southgroup Insurance, located at 330 Church St., has undergone some recent changes but still offers the same great service.
Manager Lucretia Bowman, who started with the business in October, and a partner bought the Southgroup Columbia branch from Eddie Ray Breakfield. Southgroup and Nationwide will officially be merged at some point. However, Breakfield is still very much a part of the business.
“We’ll still offer the same services, plus more,” Bowman said. “We’ll still be right here to offer a variety of companies and personal lines of all of your insurance needs.”
There has also been some minor adjustments with the staff. Lawanda Fuller is the new commercial-line manager, while Debbie McDaniel will remain the personal-line manager. Mity Rials is the accounts manager. Bowman said the entire staff can meet every one of a customer’s insurance needs.
“They are a well-trained staff with lots of years of experience,” she said. “Lawanda has been an insurance agent for 10-plus years. Debbie had her own agency and merged with Southgroup several years ago. Eddie Ray is still here, can be reached and has been with Southgroup for (25 years). Mity came over with Debbie. And we have another commercial accounts manager, Lawana Manata, who works with Eddie Ray. We all work here together and all help each other.”
Bowman has been working in insurance since 1977 and began working with Elmo Harrison as a State Farm agent, where she remained for 13 years. She then worked 10 years at Alfa Insurance for Jim Walker before spending the past 18 years with Nationwide Insurance for Patrick James. James talked Bowman into purchasing Southgroup together.
While Bowman now works full time at Southgroup, she said she is still very much involved with Nationwide. Bowman will actually be offering life insurance through Nationwide at the Southgroup office, which previously did not.
“It has been a smooth transition. The most different thing is with Nationwide, which was a captive agency, I mostly wrote just Nationwide products. Here I have a variety of different lines to write,” she said. “It’s been rather challenging to learn which company to slot which piece of business with. It’s a good thing, though, because you can zero in on the customer’s needs.”
Bowman added she is looking forward to helping Southgroup continue to grow and will be active in the community.
“We’re very much involved with the community and will have an open house Dec. 3. We encourage everybody to come by,” she said. “Marion County has been good to me, and I want to be good back to Marion County. My goals in helping Marion County has not changed at all. I can just help in a different place and in a different type of business.”
The Church Street office is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and closes at 4 p.m. on Friday. It does not close for lunch and can be reached at (601) 736-4357, even after hours.
“If they need me, just call me. The office number rolls over to my cell phone,” Bowman said.
Bowman said she believes her lifelong experiences within Marion County will help her at Southgroup.
“The people of Marion County have always been great to me, and I always want to try to be helpful to them,” she said. “I love what I do. I love the people. Everybody that walks in I want to make them feel like they are at home. I was born here and lived here all my life. I’m very much aware of the surrounding of what Marion County needs, which gives me an insight to what people need when they come here.
“I’ve seen what’s changed for the good and the bad. I’ve always tried to be one there to help, especially through catastrophes. I was 24/7 when Katrina came and 24/7 when we had that tornado come though. I’m always there for people, and I think that’s one of the biggest attributes I have. I’m very dependable.”
Pictured Above: From left, Lawanda Fuller, Debbie McDaniel and Mity Rials join new manager Lucretia Bowman, seated, at Southgroup Insurance. | Photo by Joshua Campbell