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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2009 8 years ago

Family business takes flight on Longboat Key includes family ties

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Sandra Ceshker’s friends aren’t yet used to the fact that she isn’t always free for a mid-morning tennis game. George Ceshker’s friends still forget that, for the retired American Airlines pilot, working now means sitting at a desk instead of a cockpit.

Married for 13 years, the Ceshkers now sit just three or four feet away from each other at their Secur-All Insurance branch at Harbour Square. They work together to find just about any kind of insurance policy — personal, homeowners, automobile, aviation and motorcycle are some of their specialties. Sandra Ceshker’s brother, Adam Smith, and his wife, Eileen, live next-door to the Ceshkers part-time and are helping them to establish the Longboat Key branch when they aren’t in Long Island, N.Y., managing the Secur-All main office.

It’s a life neither Ceshker could have envisioned.

As a child in Long Island, Sandra Ceshker watched her father, Robert Smith, run their family insurance business. It didn’t interest her.

“I thought that insurance was boring,” she said. “Not exciting at all.”

When her father urged her to go into the family business, Sandra Ceshker chose to work in retail, instead.

Later, she opted for property management because she liked the hours better. In 1985, Adam Smith joined the family business, but Sandra Ceshker refused.

Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, Texas, George Ceshker’s father taught him to fly planes. By 15, he was flying.

By 18, he owned an airplane. By 23, he was for flying for commercial airlines.

The Ceshkers met in Dania Beach, where Sandra Ceshker was managing a property. They moved to Longboat Key 14 years ago because of its proximity to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. Sandra Ceshker thought she and George would make good business partners — that they could open a shop on St. Armands Circle or maybe a Mexican restaurant when they retired. But George Ceshker told her that they wouldn’t have to work after retiring.

Here, Sandra Ceshker worked as a tennis coordinator, while George Ceshker continued piloting planes for commercial airlines until 2005, when he retired. The next year, he became a private pilot for the Rev. Paula White, pastor at Without Walls International Church, in Tampa. But when the 14,000-member evangelical church went into bankruptcy last year, it had to give up its plane and, of course, its pilot.

Suddenly, the idea of opening an insurance branch, which Robert Smith and Adam Smith had continued to suggest over the years, became more appealing. Both Ceshkers earned their insurance licenses, and, in June, they opened their Secur-All Longboat Key branch.

One lesson Adam Smith repeated to them: “Don’t ever copy anyone’s mistakes.”

So, when the Ceshkers gave an insurance quote to their first client, White Sands Condominium, they did research for two-and-a-half months, finding original building permits to make sure that the property was classified correctly. They warn that the results aren’t typical, but their research saved the property $73,000 a year for flood insurance alone.

Sandra Ceshker said that such situations have changed her opinion of the insurance business — she now thinks the field is exciting and an opportunity to help others. She likes going to work every day and working alongside her husband. And, although she could have never imagined herself working with or living next-door to her brother, she’s already getting excited about setting up twice as many Christmas decorations this year — the Ceshkers are known for their annual holiday display.

As for George Ceshker, a couple of weeks ago, his friend, also a retired pilot, called him to say he had found a job that the two of them could take flying a Gulfstream jet. George Ceshker turned the job down.

“I’ll insure (the plane) if you want me to,” he said.

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