Michael Cohen shares memories and laughs with DBL Center’s longest-running team member.
Eugene Puleo, DBL Center’s first employee, joined the company on April 1, 1983. He made a “splash” from day one when he promptly poured beer over his burger during lunch with founder David Cohen.
Even though Eugene started his tenure with the insurance wholesaler on April Fool’s Day, his dedication and hard work are no joke.
Eugene sat down recently to be the first DBL Center team member to go head-to-head, Actor’s Studio-style, with Michael Cohen. Their rapport is instantly evident on camera. Even if you missed our other DBL Center videos, this one is a must-see.
We’ve excerpted some of the best moments below. But you’ll have to watch the video to hear the burger-and-beer story and to find out why Mike calls Eugene, “the Jimmy Buffet of the insurance industry.”
Mike: When did you start with DBL Center?
Eugene: This past April 1, it’ll be 36 years. Time really flew.
Mike: What do you remember about Dave going off to Hawaii when he was expanding the business there?
Eugene: He wanted to go to another state that was statutory. California was all sold through the state. Rhode Island was all through the state. New Jersey we were dabbling in at the time. He said, “Hawaii, why not?”
Mike: I was just a kid at that time but having you in the office allowed him to make that move…
Eugene: It took him time for him to even let me do commissions. I remember your mom telling him, “Why’d you hire him? Why even have him if you’re not going to trust?”
I think over the years, your father trusted me. He was not a person to trust anybody, and I felt that he trusted me. I was there so he could do those other things, like going to Hawaii, knowing his business was in good hands.
Mike: So then fast forward: How did the industry change from the eighties to the nineties?
Eugene: The eighties just seemed like you could write anything. The Wild West. We were writing like nobody’s business.
Mike: Who was your biggest carrier back then?
Eugene: CNA was starting to phase out, and in the late eighties we began developing a relationship with Zurich. There were things going on with American Accident, then they went out. And Dave approached Zurich. They were right on Rte. 110 in Melville at the time, and Dave called John Beberich to talk. And Zurich became the number one writer.
Mike: Can you talk about how DBL Center has evolved in the past several years, especially since my dad passed away?
Eugene: It’s just [grown by] leaps and bounds. Now, the progression with you coming in, obviously, it was a good turn. You’d come in and give your father ideas. And he was a little stubborn in the beginning. You know. He was your dad. I remember you coming in and saying, “I’ve gotta pay these brokers 22 and a half [percent] because everybody else is paying 20.”
And the whole commissions thing… it was insane. We used to put commissions in manually by hand. Statements from Zurich could be this thick. [Gestures with hands.] It took time to keep track of the delinquents, log all the commissions, and everything was so antiquated. But you were there, giving your father ideas.
Now we can upload a statement a foot thick, and we can do it in a half hour. We couldn’t do it before. It’s been a total 180. Even moving into the new headquarters – I finally got a new office. And I’m still enjoying it after 36 years.