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Peterborough

Passing the baton

Peterborough-based company to stay in local hands

  • Bellows nichols<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Bellows nichols<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Tim McMahon, center, and Laura Akerley, right, are the new owners of the Bellows-Nichols Agency, which they purchased from Bonnie Christian, center<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Tim McMahon, center, and Laura Akerley, right, are the new owners of the Bellows-Nichols Agency, which they purchased from Bonnie Christian, center<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Tim McMahon, center, and Laura Akerley, right, are the new owners of the Bellows-Nichols Agency, which they purchased from Bonnie Christian, center<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

Laura Akerley and Tim McMahon have big shoes to fill.

In June, the two Bellows-Nichols employees finalized their purchase of the insurance agency from Bonnie Christian, wife of the late Ken Christian, who had owned the Peterborough-based agency for 29 years prior to his death in March. The purchase continues a long tradition of local ownership — Akerley grew up in Antrim and lives in Hancock and McMahon has lived in Peterborough since he was three years old — that began with the company’s founding in 1836.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for us,” Akerley said on Monday, as she and McMahon sat with Bonnie Christian in the company’s office on Main Street. “We’re hoping to be able to carry on Ken’s legacy. He was such a part of the fabric of this community.”

Ken Christian, who was born in Peterborough and graduated from Conant High School in 1962, first went to work for Bellows-Nichols in 1970, after serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. Bonnie Christian said she had worked for John Bellows and the Tom Nichols when she first got out of college, before she ever met Ken. Ken bought the business in 1985 and Bonnie became the bookkeeper that year.

“I started part-time to fill in,” she said. “Ken was going to put an ad in the paper, but that ad never came out. I was here 23 years. Laura took my place when I retired.”

Ken Christian was known both for the long hours he worked at the agency, which was within walking distance of his home, and for his many years of service as Peterborough’s town treasurer. He was honored as Peterborough’s Business Leader of the Year in 2012. He was actively running the business even as he battled with cancer during the last few years of his life.

“Ken wasn’t ready to let go of the reins,” Bonnie said. “Having a handle on the business was something that kept him going.”

Bonnie said her husband would have been pleased with the transition.

“We were determined to keep the agency local,” she said. “Ken and I felt very strongly that we wanted to do that. This seems like the perfect fit.”

McMahon, 46, has worked as an agent at Bellows-Nichols since 2005. He will be focusing on the company’s commercial insurance business.

Akerley, 39, previously worked at Granite Bank in Peterborough. She started with Bellows-Nichols in the bookkeeper job and has since added human resources and other duties.

“I wear a lot of hats,” she said.

Akerley recently became a licensed insurance agent. She will be concentrating on auto, homeowner’s and other types of personal insurance.

Akerley said the 13 members of the Bellows-Nichols staff has been very supportive during the transition.

“We’re proud and thankful for our amazing employees,” she said. “Many have been with us for more than 10 years, some more than 20.”

“Ken was great at hiring really good people,” McMahon said. “It’s a testament to him, also, that people have wanted to stay.”

The company has branch locations in New Ipswich, Jaffrey, Hancock and Antrim, which will all remain in operation.

“It’s really beneficial to have that local tie to the area,” Akerley said. “We want to serve all these communities and to stay involved.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233, or danderson@ledgertranscript.com.

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