Pancrazis Observe 90 years of Entrepreneurship

2013-10-26 23:37:17


Not many companies survive for 90 years, and especially not under the reins of the same family throughout its history.

A.T. Pancrazi Companies can lay claim to both.

A.T. Pancrazi Insurance and A.T. Pancrazi Real Estate celebrated 90 years in business Friday in conjunction with the insurance operation’s move to its new location. With the move, the two businesses are reunited under one roof at 350 W. 16th St., with the insurance office on the first floor (Suite 103) and the real estate operation on the third floor (Suite 332).

It’s full circle for the two businesses – and the three brothers who run them – after being in separate locations for 42 years.

Their roots go back to their grandfather, Ange Toussaint (A.T.) Pancrazi, who was born in 1874 on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1889, at the age of 14, he immigrated by himself to the United States to avoid conscription and went to work for his uncle, Althee Modesti, a local merchant who also owned the Agua Caliente Hotel and Spa.

In 1895, A.T. became a U.S. citizen and seven years later married Catherine Balsz, the granddaughter of early Yuma pioneer Jose Maria Redondo. Her sister married prominent local businessman E.F. Sanguinetti.

In November of 1922, A.T. made his second attempt at starting his own business at the age of 47. After failing on his first attempt at owning and operating a bicycle shop earlier in his life, he set out this time with the hopes of successfully owning and operating an insurance and real estate business at 39 2nd St.

Several years later, twin sons Bob and Ernest took over and continued to expand the business. In 1971, they merged with Lawler & Kehl Agency to become A.T. Pancrazi Agency Inc., and moved the insurance division to 333 W. 8th St. Bill Sexton, a principal with Lawler & Kehl, joined the company and remained with it until his retirement in 2002.

Meanwhile, the real estate operation had operated from 650 S. 4th Ave. before moving to its current location in 2001 to 350 W. 16th St. in the four-story building owned by the Pancrazi family and Sexton.

Bob and Ernest are now deceased, as are their three siblings.

However, the business operations A.T. started continue to thrive under the watchful direction and leadership of his grandchildren. Bob’s three sons – Doug, Mark and Tom – are all involved in the business. Doug and Mark are with A.T. Pancrazi Insurance while Tom spun off the real estate side of the business. Their sister, Andrea Brehe, lends her decorating talents for the remodeling and renovation projects that come up. Another sister, Barbara Clement, had been involved in the real estate side until marrying and moving away.

Various cousins have come and gone over the years as well. Among them is Peter Pancrazi, who became a musician.

“We certainly have been blessed with a solid foundation from which to build,” observed Mark. “This celebration is a time for us to reflect and give thanks to A.T., our father, our Uncle Ernie, Bill Sexton and all the amazing employees, past and present, who have helped shape our companies.”

Doug said it was always the plan that he would join the family business, where he had worked during high school and came back after college.

“It’s been good,” he said. “I can’t complain.”

Mark had saved some money and planned to visit Australia for a month after graduating from college when his uncle offered him a job.

“I never got to take that trip,” Mark reflected. “I wish I had gotten a couple years of outside experience, but I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a blessing to be here. There is a sense of pride in carrying on the legacy.”

Tom said he really didn’t expect to become part of the company. But then the real estate market in California, where he had been working, fell apart. So his father invited him to come back in the early 1990s and take over the real estate operation from Pat Conner, who was running for the Legislature at the time. Today, Tom and his wife, Julie, own A.T. Pancrazi Real Estate and have built it into a leading commercial real estate firm in the community.

As for the next generation, the door is open if any of their offspring have an interest and bring something of value to the businesses, the brothers say – there are 11 grandchildren just from Bob’s side of the family, four of them in college.

Reflecting on the latest development for A.T. Pancrazi Companies, Tom observed that “it is nice to finally have both the insurance and the real estate companies operating out of the same location again.”

Added Mark: “I believe, with the two companies at the same location, we will be in a better position to leverage each of our strengths, find new opportunities and better serve the community.”

Besides the two A.T. Pancrazi companies, other major tenants in the building that recently underwent a major renovation are Pioneer Title, Time Warner Cable, Yuma Southwest Contractors, Yuma Better Business Bureau, Valley Pride and Manpower.

Improvements to the building, built in 1964, go hand in hand with the city’s plans to improve the busy intersection at 4th Avenue and 16th Street and foster redevelopment of the surrounding area, Tom observed.

“Things are happening,” Tom said, envisioning a revitalization of the area into a professional hub for the city.