Astoria Characters: The Insurance Salesman

To get to Jimmy Christodoulou’s office, you have to go around the back to the basement and down a trio of narrow brick steps that are painted battleship grey.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Jimmy set up JC Insurance Brokerage in 2021.

Just follow him and Koko, his 5-year-old Shih Tzu, a rescue who isn’t keen on cuddling or even being held.

This is his parents’ house – they are Cyprus immigrants who came to New York City before Jimmy was born – and he’s living here while he gets his new business off the ground.

JC Insurance Brokerage (home * building * business * worker’s compensation * builder’s risk * general liability * commercial package & more!) came into to being in 2021 with the new year.

Please, make yourself comfortable.

Have a seat on the leather lounger.

Look around.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
The basement decor is eclectic.

There’s a printer atop an old stove, a brand-new telescope pointing toward a small window whose shade is closed and set of ancient kitchen cabinets painted jack-o’-lantern orange.

Would you like some coffee?

There’s a fresh pot and some granola bars on a table behind the lounger, right next to the plastic sprinkling can and the lamp with the leaded-glass shade.

By their side is the washing machine, above which are hung two stuffed deer Jimmy’s father bagged on a long-ago hunting trip and a colorful painting of circular shapes that Jimmy salvaged from the trash.

Further back, there’s a desk that Jimmy made from things he found on the street and a bed.

When things start to feel cramped, Jimmy simply goes upstairs to help out his mom and dad.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Jimmy worked as a bartender in Cyprus for a year.

“It took me about two years to put everything together,” he says. “I had to do everything, including replace the floor.”

He taps its smooth surface with his foot. Yup, it’s solid.

It’s not the ideal setup, but Jimmy, who is a one-person shop, never has clients here: His sales are done digitally. 

“I know it doesn’t look like much, but I’ve done really well – I netted $106,000 last year,” he says, adding that the location is more about convenience than economy. “I help support my parents. Their English is not good, and they don’t know technology.”

Besides which, he knows most of his clients because he used to work for another Astoria broker.

Although Jimmy was born and raised in Astoria, he has spent a lot of time in Cyprus.

“I used to go there in the summer, and in 2008, during the recession, I lived there for a year,’” he says. “A relative got me a job as a bartender. It worked out because a lot of the customers were British, and I speak English and Greek.”

But he missed New York City and decided to come back.

Jimmy has always been a whiz with numbers, so when it was time for college, he decided to  study non-financial subjects to supplement his knowledge base.

To work his way through Queens College, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in media studies and sociology with a minor in psychology, he worked in an insurance office.

“This appealed to me because my uncle had an insurance brokerage,” he says. “I knew it was a job where your hands didn’t get dirty, and you got to sit at a desk and wear nice clothes.”

After his stint in Cyprus, Jimmy became a real estate agent in New York City for three years.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Jimmy loves selling insurance.

His next job, which also lasted three years, involved redesigning the city’s Club Monaco retail clothing stores.

“I liked doing that, but there was no room for growth,” he says. “I always wanted to be a businessman/entrepreneur, so I started my own marketing, branding and PR company, which allowed me to use what I learned in college.”

Demand Inc., which is what he called it, had a good run, but Jimmy sure did miss selling insurance.

“I was walking by John Alexiou Insurance on 23rd Avenue, and I saw a sign that said, ‘We’re hiring,’” he says. “I had always admired him, so I went in.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
He wants to give back to the community.

When Alexiou retired in 2020, Jimmy transferred to another company and shortly thereafter opened JC Insurance Brokerage. The JC, of course, stands for Jimmy Christodoulou.

As the company grows, Jimmy plans to give back to the community, particularly to the schools.

“I love Astoria and New York City,” he says. “They bring out the best in me. I want to give people the opportunity to do what they want to do. If you don’t have a place to live or enough food to eat, how can you follow your dreams?”

A little support, he adds, goes a long way.

Copyright 2023 by Nancy A. Ruhling