When Andrew Stype began working for his family business in 1971, he hated it.
His father, Valentine Stype Sr., had founded the Val Stype Agency — which covered both insurance and real estate — only seven years earlier, and he needed help. At the time, Mr. Stype’s older brother, Valentine Jr., was in the Air Force and his younger brother, John, was still in high school, so it fell to him. He quit college, where he was studying accounting, and started working with insurance premiums out of his father’s office in Ronkonkoma.
“But the problem was, Dad bought this insurance agency-real estate office from a guy who was having some health issues,” Mr. Stype explained. The office was a mess.
At the time, his job was to make sure everyone was paying their premiums. He’d drive to Ronkonkoma from his North Fork home and knock on people’s doors — “I always tried to call them first, but they wouldn’t respond,” he said. They’d slam the door in his face.
“It happened three or four times,” Mr. Stype, now 72, recalled, which he thought was “a little weird.” Later that week, while cleaning the office with other staff, he found envelopes containing payments behind a desk.
“These people had actually paid the owner before,” he said. “So, that’s how I had my start with the insurance business, which was not a lot of fun, but things got better from that.”
For a time, the business was run as Val Stype & Sons by all three brothers and their father. But after Val Jr. left to work as a teacher in Hampton Bays and Val Sr. died in 1987, John and Andrew bought out the insurance and real estate operations, respectively, each taking on one segment of the business.
Since then, Andrew Stype Realty has been expanded into a real estate and appraisal agency, operating across the North Fork for nearly 60 years. It has survived poor marketplaces, stock market collapses and even the pandemic, which proved a challenge unlike anything Mr. Stype has seen.
This year, he will celebrate his fiftieth anniversary with the company, where his daughter, Erica McKenzie, also works. Looking back, Mr. Stype said “it’s been a constant education.”
“We’re always learning new things all the time,” he said. “But I think the most important thing that my father taught me, it’s a lot about sales and service … when we get a phone call, we always call people back right away.”
Long ago, Mr. Stype attended night school for three years to become a general certified appraiser, on which he now spends about 95% of his time in the office, he said. Ms. McKenzie, who started there in 2006, focuses on real estate.
“I always enjoy coming in,” he added. “I’m normally the first one here and the last one to leave. And I don’t mind working seven days a week, and I don’t mind working evenings.”
Mr. Stype said he “recharges his batteries” by spending his winter months in Florida. He doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, although he might start pulling back in a few years to hand things over to his daughter.
“I know my time is going to be up when I walk in the office one morning and she’s sitting at my desk,” he said.