Gary Beckwith Sells the Family Business

By Bill Bruns
Palisades News Adviser

Gary Beckwith, a lifelong Palisadian, has sold his Beckwith Insurance Agency on Via de la Paz, ending 65 years of family ownership—the second longest such business in town behind Norris Hardware (founded in 1923).

The new owner, Joseph Esparza of Coast to Coast Insurance Services, LLC, took over the office on September 1 and will retain the Beckwith Insurance name.

Beckwith, whose father Bob founded the business in a tiny office on Sunset in 1951, joined the agency in 1975 and, in 2005, brought aboard his oldest son, John.

Now 64, Gary Beckwith told the News that he had been contemplating retirement in “the next year or two, whenever John was ready to take over.”

But on Father’s Day, John and his wife Jessica, a native of Phoenix, announced that they had decided to move to Arizona where they can afford to build a new home and be close to her parents, while enjoying “less traffic and a slower pace of life.” The couple, who married two years ago, have a one-year-old daughter and a son who is expected in February.

Gary Beckwith and his son, John, at Beckwith Insurance. Photo: Lesly Hall
Gary Beckwith and his son, John, at Beckwith Insurance.
Photo: Lesly Hall

John, who was an assistant coach for Loyola High School’s powerhouse volleyball team for 11 years, doesn’t have a job lined up in Arizona, but he has several leads and “I may also try to coach.”

The sudden move “caught me by surprise,” Beckwith admitted, but he simply fast-forwarded his retirement plans and set about selling the business. “I just wanted to get it over with and help John move.”

Working with a business broker, Beckwith found Esparza, who owns several other insurance agencies. They closed the sale within about 30 days (“my lawyer and my accountant didn’t think it could happen so fast,” Beckwith said), and last Wednesday Beckwith was quietly preparing to depart.

“I thought my biggest headache would be clearing out the furniture, but [Esparza] is going to take it all—I just have to pack up my pictures and go.”

Beckwith and his wife, Patty, a dietician who works primarily with the pediatric diabetes center at UCLA, will continue living in their Alphabet neighborhood home that was built in 1926 but has been upgraded over the years.

“My grandparents moved here in 1923, and my father was in the first kindergarten class at Palisades Elementary,” Beckwith said. After the war, Bob worked for a friend in the insurance business, then opened his own business and, in 1992, moved his growing agency onto Via—into a building that replaced the Tocaloma gym and swimming pool where Gary learned to swim.

Said Beckwith, “We were fortunate to have a landlord like Ted (Mackie],” who owns a bike repair shop in the same building. “We paid reasonable rent year after year; otherwise it would have been a struggle.”

So what will Beckwith do with his sudden free time? “I don’t have any retirement plans yet—it all kind of happened quickly,” he said. “But my dance card is filling up fast.” He’ll soon be flying to Mexico to go deep-sea fishing off Cedros Island, then will travel to South Carolina to visit his middle son, Michael, who is married with two young children. Father and son may also go bass fishing. Then at Thanksgiving it’s off for Hawaii, where the Beckwith’s youngest son, Brian, lives with his wife, and more deep-sea fishing beckons.

“It’s all exciting,” Beckwith said. “I can’t wait.”

Yet he also retires with fond memories of the family business that he ran so well for so long. “I have been here for 41 years and I’ve been very passionate about serving my clients [about 850], many of them friends and relatives,” he said on his final day. “I still have some of my dad’s original customers, their kids, and their grandkids. I’ve tried to do right by everybody.”

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