50 years of Service to BC and beyond
Nickum State Farm reaches milestone year
Last updated 2/21/2023 at 5:07pm
Wednesday, March 1, from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Bill and Ellen Nickum and their staff will be marking 50 years as a State Farm Agency in Bridge City with an open house at 1930 Texas Ave. Everyone is invited to stop in for a visit and refreshments.
Bill Nickum started the agency with a card table in his bedroom in 1973, going door to door, building the agency one customer at a time.
The four years before that, he was an insurance adjuster.
"I was dealing with agents; with their claims," he said. Nickum thought if they can do it, I can do it. After applying for the agency, he realized it was tougher than he thought.
He started out making $300 a month. They had two small girls, Angela and Alyson and lived in a very small house they rented for $68 dollars a month, including the furniture.
Ellen worked substitute teaching at Bridge City ISD for $9 a day. She had to quit her job when she had their third child, John.
"They did not have a leave of absence at that time," said Ellen Nickum. "I could have gone back, but they asked me also to take the homebound job, so I did." She taught students who were not able to attend school for illnesses, pregnancy, etc. (At that time pregnant students were not allowed to attend public school.)
"They had to be out of school four weeks before they could be qualified for the program or they knew they were going to be out."
Ellen worked for the school district for 49 years.
Bill retired the card table after eight months and opened his first office at 1617 Texas Ave. which is now an abandoned building.
He moved to his current location in 1984. Originally the building housed two businesses, but when the office had to be remodeled after Hurricane Ike flooded it in 2008, Nickum chose to expand the office and take the entire building.
They serviced the community for several weeks after that weather event under a tent and from a State Farm mobile office housed in a trailer.
It's not the first time they have gone above and beyond. During the ice storm of 1997, they were one of the few buildings on the block that had electricity.
"Burger King brought us their coffee," said Nickum. Since Burger King had no electricity or water, they supplied the agency with coffee to offer to anybody that needed it. "We put a sign out and we had truckers coming through." Nickum said they filled many a thermos. "[Burger King] told us as long as we had electricity, they would supply us with all the coffee we could fix...those are good times," he said.
Donna Gray has been with Nickum for 44 years.
She said they even washed their hair at the office during the ice storm, because they had no electricity or water at home. They brought their sleeping bags and slept at the office where there was heat.
During Katrina, Louisiana residents were able to pick up additional living checks at the Bridge City office.
In 2012 Ellen Nickum started ANE, an independent insurance agency, because many insurance companies started non-renewing clients in Orange County after Hurricane Ike, including State Farm.
"Nobody wanted to insure the coast," said Bill.
It wasn't anything against State Farm, they were just trying to continue to service the clients that had become family.
"State Farm has been very good to us," said Ellen. "It was hard during the non-renewal because that was like part of your family you were losing," said Ellen. Almost two thirds of his clients were non-renewed. "He could have retired but he decided to stay because of the people in Bridge City. He had staff that had been with him a long time."
Some of the staff moved over to ANE and some stayed at the State Farm office. They weathered the storm, so to speak.
Besides Gray, Cheryl Squires, who has been with Nickum for 15 years currently staffs the State Farm office, along with the Nickum's grandson Kollin Smith.
Several former staff members have gone on to become State Farm Agents on their own, including their son, John Nickum, who is an agent in Vidor.
Other agents and former Nickum staff are: Michelle Weeks - San Antonio; Bette Davidson - Port Neches; Lori Dishon - Clear Lake; and Heater Montagne - Orange/Beaumont.
Bill Nickum says Squires stays for the snacks.
"Chocolate," said Squires. "Bill and I have that in common."
Both Gray and Squires had nothing but praise for their boss. Gray talked about Nickum being such a giving soul but has a hard time receiving.
She relayed a story about a young couple with a baby coming in and needing a microwave. She said Bill Nickum loaded up the new microwave he had just bought for the office in the couple's vehicle.
"We just got to pop one bag of popcorn," she said.
The Nickums serve the community with more than just insurance. There is a prayer cross in his office. When one of his clients, a friend, or even a stranger submits a prayer request, the written request is attached to the cross and prayers for intercession are offered.
Bill and Ellen have been married for 57 years and are members of Second Baptist Church of Bridge City where Bill serves as deacon and teaches Sunday school and discipleship classes. Ellen teaches Sunday school and has served as missions director.
"We are so blessed," said Ellen. "We give all glory to God."
Bill Nickum is a lifetime ambassador of the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce and has held every office including President. He has been named Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year (twice) and Parade Marshall.
He is a 50-year charter member of Bridge City Orangefield Rotary International, holding every office and committee chair in the organization. He has been inducted into the Rotary International Roll of Fame, named Rotarian of the Year more than once and has received the Perfect Attendance Award.
He has been a member of the board of Workforce Solutions of Southeast Texas for more than 30 years, serving in all offices.
Ellen Nickum has been a member of Bridge City Business and Professional Women Organization for 35 years and was named Woman of the Year. She has served as president and all offices in the organization. The name was later changed to Community Women of Action. The service organization has sponsored the Miss Bridge City Scholarship Pageant of 45 years.
The Nickums plan to continue to serve the community. Bill says he has no plans to retire.
Gray says the same thing, "I'll retire when he retires."
Pay them a visit next Wednesday and congratulate them on 50 years of service. Don't forget to say "Hello" to Loxie, the long-haired dachshund that has been on staff almost as long as Squires. Tell them you saw it in The Record.