LOWELL — James O’Hearn grew up in his father’s business. He was just a baby when Peter struck out on his own and founded O’Hearn Insurance in Lowell’s Belvidere neighborhood.
Now, 38 years later, Jamie, as he’s nicknamed, is taking the reins of the family business, which serves the Greater Lowell and Southern New Hampshire communities, and Peter O’Hearn couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a great feeling because I had a number of clients looking at me saying, ‘What’s going to happen to us when something happens to you, Peter?” the 73-year-old said. “This was a great opportunity for Jamie to get into the business, which has provided a great livelihood for me and my family over the years.”
That livelihood supported a family of eight, including four boys and two girls. Peter and Johanna “Jody” O’Hearn were married 49 years, until her death in 2021. O’Hearn Insurance has insured generations of Lowellians in their home, auto, flood, life and commercial insurance needs.
“At this point, there’s some third generation customers,” Peter O’Hearn said. “Some of my original customers’ grandkids coming in for their insurance needs.”
Jamie O’Hearn, who started taking over six weeks ago, is discovering the deep roots his father’s business has in the community.
“The people that come through the doors are people I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “Like old baseball coaches from when I was a kid. It’s kind of come full circle for me to now be working with people I grew up with.”
Like his father, Jamie O’Hearn graduated from UMass Amherst. After college, he started with the downtown branch of Enterprise Bank in a leadership development program. He earned his Master of Business Administration from Bentley University in Waltham, before moving into the bank’s wealth management department as a financial advisor and planner.
The leap from a 16-year career in corporate America to small-business owner was smoothed by similar business strategies of planning for the future by managing today’s resources, and establishing a personal relationship with clients.
“It’s a different pace, but at the end of the day, it’s still helping people, looking out for the client and giving them the best advice,” he said. “It all comes down to trust.”
Jamie O’Hearn noted that what’s different between banking and insurance, and what keeps him up at night, is a different kind of risk.
“In my old job, I used to worry about the stock market,” he said. “Now I worry about the weather.”
And he had some sleepless nights making the leap to his father’s business. He and his wife, Amanda, are parents to Madison, 7, and Payton, 4.
“It was big decision that weighed on me for some time,” he said. “But the confidence knowing my father was not going to walk out the door on Day 1, and that I was going to be able to learn from him, leverage his knowledge, pushed me to do it.”
His wife backed his career change.
“I’m very happy that Jamie is taking on this new venture and continuing his father’s business,” Amanda O’Hearn said. “I know he’ll do great and I’m excited for this next chapter in our lives.”
Not only do father and son work together, but Jamie, Amanda and the girls live in his childhood home, right next door to Peter. The office is barely a mile from their street.
Even with nine grandchildren to spoil, Peter O’Hearn hasn’t retired yet, and says that while Jamie is the boss, it’s a two-man operation while he shows his son the ropes.
“I’m just the unpaid intern,” the senior O’Hearn laughed. “He’s the boss, now. And he is tough!”
The entire extended O’Hearn clan — in Charlestown, Wilmington, Lowell and Lexington — reflects the personal nature of the family-run agency: all are insured through the business.
“It’s been a good run,” Peter O’Hearn said. “And it’s comforting to know that my customer base, that has taken care of me and propped me up for 38 years, is in good hands.”