Family Company Celebrates Century Via Giving

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Three white men, one middle aged, one older, but younger, stand together in tuxedos smiling for the camera.
Richard Cohen (right) with father Barry Cohen and grandfather Gene Lerner in 1996 | Courtesy of Clarke & Cohen

According to Brett Cohen, the fourth-generation family member to work at Clarke & Cohen Property Loss Consultants, being a public insurance adjuster “is not all peaches and gravy.”

But after 100 years of helping clients settle insurance claims after house fires and property destruction, Clarke & Cohen wants to give back to its community.

The consultant company is hosting a series of “random acts of kindness” this month, holding a Chanukah and Christmas toy drive at its Bala Cynwyd office in partnership with Manayunk Development Corp. for the Northlight Community Center. It hosted a coat drive with Our Closet and the Bethesda Project and dropped off food to fire stations in the city, suburbs and down the shore earlier in December.


“It’s fortunate to be in business for 100 years; it’s fortunate to be able to work with your family, and it’s fortunate to have the success and the growth in our company that we’ve had,” said Richard Cohen, Clarke & Cohen CEO and father of Brett Cohen. “This was an opportunity … to really give back and make a difference.”

Clarke & Cohen is licensed in 27 states and is a charter member of the National Association of public insurance adjusters. Four members of Clarke & Cohen have served as president of that trade organization, including Richard Cohen.

But like many Jewish family businesses, the consulting company had humble beginnings.

Clarke & Cohen was founded by Simon Clarke and Leon Cohen, who were originally partners in the salvage industry before Pennsylvania passed the first public adjuster law in 1921. The partners shifted business models, setting up an office at 229 Chestnut St.

Clarke was an Irish Jew — his cousin was the mayor of Dublin at some point.

“He was very observant,” Richard Cohen said. “If you had a fire or a loss on the Sabbath, you couldn’t speak to him. You had to wait until the Sabbath was over for him to help you.”

Ten years into Clarke and Cohen’s public adjuster business, Clarke left after a disagreement, leaving the Cohens at the helm of the business.

Three white men wearing black suits with white shirts and black ties smile at the camera.
Richard Cohen (center) with nephew Blake Zucker and son Brett Cohen (right) in 2019 | Courtesy of Clarke & Cohen

Richard Cohen’s grandfather became the business owner in the 1940s, and his father began working for the company in 1963. The company moved then to its office in Bala Cynwyd. Richard Cohen, the only grandson, joined in 1988 after graduating from The Pennsylvania State University. He was a first-generation college graduate.

“It was pretty much always an expectation that I would join the business,” he said. “My parents actually joked that they considered naming me Clarke Cohen.”

Richard Cohen became a partner of Clarke & Cohen in 1994 and owner in 2004. He was responsible for modernizing the company, which, at the beginning of his employment, didn’t even have copy or fax machines — just a mimeograph machine. 

Though his father expected him to follow in his footsteps, Richard Cohen has no qualms fulfilling his role of heir.

“I pretty much found that [passion] right away,” he said.

Though Richard Cohen is keen to keep the business in family hands, he avoided putting pressure on his son and nephew Blake Zucker. That didn’t matter— they both started working for Clarke & Cohen on their own volition.

After graduating college, Brett Cohen began working for a client of Clarke & Cohen’s at the time.

“I saw what my family’s company came in and was able to do and how that was able to help such a large management company,” he said. “At that point, it was apparent to me that I had a unique opportunity that not a lot of people have and that I should take advantage of.”

A red brick wall reads "Clarke & Cohen Expert Adjusters & Approaisers of Fire Losses For The Assured"
Clarke & Cohen originally had its offices at 229 Chestnut St. in Old City. | Courtesy of Clarke & Cohen

Brett Cohen, 29, has worked at Clarke & Cohen for four years, now alongside Zucker. He plans on filling his father’s footsteps as owner one day.

“This is kind of a calling of sorts,” Brett Cohen said. “When something happens, we’re there to help people make it better.”

Donations for Clarke & Cohen’s toy drive can be dropped off at 510 Belmont Ave. in Bala Cynwyd.

srogelberg@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0741

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