Ten Years Later

July 1999

by Edna Tenney, Editor, Business People

A look at the businesses making news in the July 1989 issue of Business Digest

Bushnell Ducham

The Business Digest article 10 years ago told the stories of Dave Ducham, a Vermont native who studied math at St. Michaels, UVM and UMass, and became an actuary; and Jim Bushnell, also a Vermont native, who went through Champlain College and UVM and became an insurance consultant. In the late 70s they teamed up to provide pension and employee benefit planning for businesses. Dave Ducham Ten years later Dave Ducham is still providing pension planning and actuarial consulting, but from new offices in St. Albans; and Jim Bushnell is still working with employee benefit plans but in Atlanta, Ga. For quite a while we had been like two companies, Ducham says. Jim was doing health and welfare consulting while I was doing actuarial and pension work. So at the end of 1991 they formed two companies. In 1993 Bushnell & Co. merged with Gallagher Flynn & Co., a Burlington accounting firm, where Bushnell headed the employee benefits division. Two years ago he moved to Atlanta, where he continues consulting. Ducham established Ducham Associates Ltd., Actuarial Consulting, which spent seven and a half years in Colchester before moving to St. Albans last May. We started out by doing a wide range of pension and 401-K plan administration, Ducham says, but we got out of 401-K plan administration in 1994 because most insurance companies, banks and brokerage firms were in that market. It was not profitable for actuaries. Now we focus on pension consulting and actuarial consulting. It was a very good decision for us. The firm designs and administers pension plans, providing the federally required actuarial certifications and annual customized statements for employees to understand their benefits. Actuarial consulting can include advising on 401-K plans, assessing the cost of pension plan changes for union negotiations, or providing expert testimony in divorce cases, where the value of a pension needs to be established. Divorce work has been a fast-growing part of my practice, Ducham says. Its not a pleasant subject, but from an actuarial point of view, its very interesting and important. We also create mathematical models of future pension payments. Ducham obviously enjoys mathematical challenges of all kinds, but he particularly likes actuarial work because its a place were math can be applied to solve real problems, where it affects peoples lives.

Smith Bell & Thompson

The Business Digest cover story of the July 1989 issue told of Warren Thompsons successful efforts at taking his traditional insurance business into mass marketing, creating insurance products to meet specific needs of vertical markets jewelers or home healthcare, for instance and then selling these products on a regional and national basis. He developed a market in some types of high risk liability insurance and also entered the captive insurance arena, providing self-insurance programs for large companies in association with an out-of-state firm as Hanna Insurance Services of Vermont. The article ended with the firm preparing a 10,000-square-foot expansion to accommodate its growth. Matulonis, Teese, Thompson & Kovac These days, the person to talk to at Smith, Bell & Thompson is Roger Teese. Thompson retired to Jupiter, Fla., in 1995 after selling the company to four key employees: Teese, who is the CEO; Thompsons son, Bill, senior vice president; Brad Matulonis, vice president and treasurer; and Carolyn Kovac, vice president. In March 2000, the company will move from its long time Burlington offices on South Winooski Avenue to a new waterfront building being developed by Paul Sprayregen. Assuming it gets started in time, Teese says, well have the top two floors. The company has continued creating insurance programs for specific types of businesses, and now 90 percent of the firms policies are written out of state. We are licensed in every state, Teese says. We do our own underwriting, policy issuance and billing, and we are audited by the insurance companies that we have authority from. The firm has tailored programs for a remarkable variety of businesses, ranging from medical equipment providers and precision metal-working businesses, to employee-leasing companies and bed & breakfasts (this last one, only in 17 states, Teese notes). Programs initiated in the 80s are still mainstays for the company selling insurance products to lawyers in New England and New York, and the captive insurance division, which was renamed SB&T Captive Management Co. In July Smith Bell & Thompson will embark on a new avenue of business insurance selling. The firm bought the franchise to sell business insurance programs to Group Advantage members of the Sams Club in Plattsburgh, working from a kiosk located in the discount store, which is part of the Wal-Mart chain.

Rays Seafood

The article about Rays Seafood 10 years ago chronicled the growth of the business from its start in 1950 by Ray Dunkling and his son, Reg, who began bringing lobsters and seafood from Maine to sell to Burlingtonians. In 1951 they opened Rays Seafood on North Street. In 1959 Reg bought the business from his father and with the help of Regs wife, Hazel, and their children, along with various other relatives and staff, this family business grew into a large wholesale and retail business, with trucks on the road six days a week traveling to Maine and Massachusetts to buy fresh seafood and deliver it to local customers. Today Rays Seafood has an Essex Junction retail outlet that includes a 44-seat restaurant and a large wholesale operation in addition to the Burlington retail location that has added a take-out menu of prepared dishes. Reg Dunkling has moved to Maine but remains a partner in the business that is run by his ex-wife. All of my children except one work in the business, Hazel says. That daughter, Karen Fortin, has a farm in Alburg. We sell her corn here in the summer, her mother adds. Rays Seafood has included lake fish in its line of fresh fish, buying perch and other Lake Champlain fish from local fishermen. We have quite a variety, Hazel says, and our customers have shown a good interest in it. Son Paul oversees the warehouse operation and daughter, Janice Clark, handles the wholesale selling. Daughters Mary Pike and Debbie Addis work in the retail side of the business. And now two granddaughters are working for me, Hazel says. I tell them all Im semi-retired, but it doesnt seem to work. Early retirement is not something that runs in her family. Her uncle, Edward Raymond, still works in the business. He will be 90 in January 2000.

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Last updated: 10/05/99
Business Digest
July 1989