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Business marks century

June 15, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Theodore Roosevelt was president and a loaf of bread sold for a nickel when Jacob A. Strite opened Valley Agency Co. Insurance on Feb. 21, 1907, Russ Smith said Thursday as the agency celebrated its first century in business.

Smith, who is co-owner with his wife, Susan Oyler Smith, said the couple bought the business from her parents in 1986. The agency, which has been at 797 Fifth Ave. for three years, has a staff of 10, he said.

"It's still hard work. Nobody walks in and says, 'Please sell me some insurance,'" Smith joked in his office.

During the past century, the business has been at several locations, including the Chambersburg Trust Building, South Main Street and the Sentry Trust building next to the current offices, Smith said.

The celebration drew state Rep. Rob Kauffman; Franklin County Commissioners G. Warren Elliott, Bob Thomas and Cheryl Plummer; Chambersburg Mayor Samuel W. Worley; and Borough Council President William McLaughlin, along with members of the business community.

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Thursday also was the 65th wedding anniversary of the former owners, Harry and Doris Oyler, who purchased the business in 1962. Kauffman presented them with a House proclamation honoring the longevity of their marriage.

"When I started at the Chamber, Harry was just getting out of the business," said David Sciamanna, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce. Oyler was one of the founders of the Chambersburg Area Development Corp., Sciamanna said.

"Harry and his family have been really good to Chambersburg in many, many ways," Thomas said.

Russ Smith probably is more widely known as a magician and the producer and master of ceremonies for the annual Comedy and Magic Spectacular, which has been raising money for the Exchange Club for the past 20 years. He also does the show in Philadelphia, Hagerstown, Lancaster, Pa., and Hanover, Pa., he said.

Ever the performer, he took a minute to baffle three guests with a rope trick.

Smith also toured 10 times with the USO in the 1980s and 1990s.

Throughout July, Valley Agency will be collecting nonperishable food items, toiletries, books, magazines and other items for troops in Iraq.

Goods or monetary donations can be dropped off at the business during business hours. Valley Agency will handle packaging and shipping.

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