The growth story of Wilgus Associates can be traced back to its origins as a staff of one in a one room insurance office located on the boardwalk in the Bethany Beach Bowling Ally. Since that humble and simple beginning, Wilgus Associates has grown to include three offices in Sussex County that offer a wide array of real estate and insurance services and now employs a staff of over fifty.
Sussex County Beginnings
William F. Wilgus, Jr., once a State Senator, started the Wilgus Insurance Agency in 1945. He worked as a bookkeeper for a poultry and insurance firm doing business as Truitt & Steelman, located in Dagsboro, Delaware. Wilgus purchased the insurance portion of the business from Truitt & Steelman for $1,000.00. This young insurance company prospered and in 1956, Gerald W. Wilgus (see photo at right) joined his father's business after attending Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware. Gerald proceeded to grow the business and became the first President and Chairman of the Board of Wilgus Associates, Inc.
The Bethany Beach Bowling Alley
Gerald Wilgus' business career began in 1943 when at the age of seven he began setting up pins in the family owned and operated Bethany Beach Bowling Alley (see photo at left), which was built by his grandfather, T.G. Walston, in 1930. By the age of 14, Gerald was managing the bowling alley. This was the same bowling alley where William F. Wilgus, Jr., established the first location of the Wilgus Insurance Agency. Gerald continued as the manager of the bowling alley until it was destroyed during the storm in March of 1962.
Defining Times: Storm of the Century
To fill the void left by the bowling alley's destruction, Gerald and his older brother Donald expanded the family insurance business to include real estate sales in 1965. Three years later, the business was reorganized and became Wilgus Associates, Inc., the area's first full service real estate and insurance company and a leader in Sussex County. (Click the photo to the left to read the article from 1962.) In January of 1970, William F. Wilgus passed away unexpectedly. At the time of his death, he held the position as the first full time Delaware Secretary of the Senate. His presence was missed, but the business continued to prosper under the leadership of the next generation.
While duck hunting with a friend and business associate, John Gibson in 1977, Gerald and John discussed the area's need for a hometown bank that would better serve southeastern Sussex County. It was in a duck blind that Gibson and Wilgus exchanged thoughts and ideas that in 1979 led to the creation of the First National Bank of Georgetown, which is now known as Delaware National Bank. Gerald served as the founding Chairman and remained as the Chairman of the Board for twelve years. By this time Wilgus Associates included real estate sales, rentals, development, construction, and insurance. In July, 1981, Donald Wilgus retired from Wilgus Associates. It was during the 1980s that Gerald's three children each graduated from the University of Delaware and joined the company to become the third generation to work at the family business: Michael in 1981, David in 1985, and Melanie in 1988. Michael initially joined the company as a clerk in the Summer Rental Department, advanced on as a Rental Agent, Sales Agent, and eventually a Real Estate Broker. David began his career at Wilgus in the Insurance Department as an agent and progressed to become the company's Insurance Broker. Melanie headed the Appraisal Division for a number of years before she and her family relocated out of the area.
Passing the Torch
January of 2002 brought about many corporate changes at Wilgus Associates. Gerald, who had semi-retired several years previous, officially retired from the business after a long and successful career in establishing all of the company's services and growing the business to three separate locations with a staff of close to sixty people. Michael became President while David continued as Wilgus' Secretary~Treasurer. David progressed with the family interest in the bank his father founded by gaining a seat on the Board of Directors at Delaware National Bank. Tim Hill, who had originally joined Wilgus Associates in 1985 as a Rental Agent, took over the reigns of the young Property Management Department in 1988. Under Tim's leadership and guidance, the Property Management Department of Wilgus Associates is the area's leader in Property Management services, including Year Round Rentals, Property Maintenance, and virtually all levels of HOA Services. In July, 2006, Tim became Vice-President of Wilgus Associates. The first representative of the fourth generation in the Wilgus family began at the family business in June of 2006. Kylie Marie Wilgus, a graduate of Goldey Beacom College, continues to work in many areas of support at the company, including advertising, real estate sales and vacation rentals.
Many years have past and much change has occurred since the days of the one room insurance office on the ocean front in Bethany Beach. Without the dedicated staff and the loyal customers over the past sixty years, Wilgus Associates would not have prospered and realized the success that is enjoyed today. Honesty, professionalism, and integrity continue to be the basis on which this company conducts business. To each of you that has done business with us, whether many years ago or just last week, we thank you. To those of you who may be interested in what we offer, come check us out!