Brooks, Todd & McNeil supports local artists and other nonprofit endeavors.

May 22, 2018

Nutmeg Nuggets: ‘Oldest insurance agency’ supports arts in Torrington

By Jack Sheedy Published 10:06 am, Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Photo: Photo by Jack Sheedy Courtesy of The Register Citizen

TORRINGTON – Stephen G. Todd, president and CEO of Brooks, Todd & McNeil insurance agency, believes the agency has a responsibility to support artistic and other nonprofit endeavors here and in surrounding towns.

“To whom much is given much is expected,” he said during an interview in his Water Street office.

To that end, the nearly two-century-old agency is a major supporter of the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory’s graduation ceremonies set for May 16 – 19 at the Nutmeg Premiere Studio at 58 Main St. in Torrington. Performances feature excerpts from Acts 2 and 3 from “Swan Lake,” excerpts from “Carmen,” a new modern work by Kate St. Amand, and original choreography to the music of John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk and performed by the local quartet JINQS.

Todd’s agency – he claims it is the oldest in the country, with roots extending back to 1839 and possibly 1833 – gives back half its net proceeds every year to charities and the arts, he said. That includes the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory, the Warner Theatre, Five Points Gallery – of which he is vice president – and more.

“The arts are a real outlet, an encouragement in a state where, from the financial standpoint, there are a lot of challenges,” he said. “It’s a wonderful way to cope and handle life’s stresses and to cultivate a talent or skill in a constructive manner that can ground you as a person and can bring joy, not only to yourself but to others.”

Todd has both business and personal dealings with members of the arts community. Asked why he supports the Nutmeg, for example, he said, “It’s Sharon [Dante, founding director], whom I think the world of, and Marc Trivella, who is a 30-year friend and longtime vice president of [Nutmeg’s] board.”

The arts have become an engine for commerce in Torrington, he said. He cited Five Points and the Nutmeg as examples of artistic entities that attract young people from outside of Torrington. Five Points brings in recent Hartford School of Art graduates “to live and work and practice their craft here in Torrington” in the Five Points’ “Launchpad” program, he said. “It gives them a chance to see Torrington and be in Torrington and have dinner and enjoy what we have here,” he added.

“And the Nutmeg is similarly doing that, [attracting] not only people in the state but in the country and in the international community to Torrington,” he said. He noted that Nutmeg’s recruiters Joan Kunsch and Tim Melady crisscross the country and parts of Canada every year, auditioning hopeful young dancers and bringing them to Torrington to study.

“We’ve got a really good engine going,” he said. “We’re drawing young people to Torrington, and we’ve got to make sure we support that.”

Until about five years ago, the agency was known as Burns, Brooks & McNeil. In 1980, Gordon C. Todd, Stephen’s father, and his partner purchased it from John H.

Brooks and Harold J. Burns. As part of a 175th anniversary celebration, Stephen Todd surprised his father by announcing in front of 450 people that the name had been changed to Brooks, Todd & McNeil, in honor of Gordon C. Todd, who is still chairman of the board.

The agency is successful because of its employees and how they treat their clients, Todd said. “Each and every day, [we are] doing the right thing, striving for that, and it has a way of playing out as it should. It’s something that is increasingly rare today.”

He noted that many employees have been with the company for decades. “My longest-termed tenured employee is 50 years, Janet Iffland,” he said. Another recent employee, Betty Brown, served the company for 48 years. Betsy Quartiero, who still works one day a week, joined the company about 46 years ago, he said.

“Integrity, quality of our employees, a caring attitude, and the fact that we – I know it sounds a bit clichéd – but we really are a big family,” he said. “We’re very involved in the community.”

Nutmeg’s graduation performances will be May 16, 17 and 18 from 7 – 9 p.m. and May 19 from 2 – 4 p.m. For ticket information, call the Warner Theatre at 860-489-7180.