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In Glen Head, ‘a small business owner behind a big name’

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In a bright, inviting office space on Glen Head Road, the clicks of a keyboard sounded loudly over calls that came in on one of three phones. On the fourth line Celeste Gullo, of Glen Cove, spoke with one of her clients as she scrolled through their files on a desktop computer. “Your last accident is now almost a year ago,” she said. “I remember when it happened.”

Since 2015 Gullo, 40, has owned the Allstate agency in Glen Head, managing the “claims, crashes and crazy stories” of nearly 1,700 clients. And while her tenure as a local business owner is short-lived, her service to the community has already been realized. Next week, Gullo will be honored at the 2019 Premier Business Women of Long Island awards.

The awards, a venture of Richner Communications, celebrate female business leaders making an impact. Honorees are chosen from a pool of nominees by a committee based on their strength and passion to champion and lead both their organization and their community.

Gullo was nominated by Sea Cliff resident Judith Rivera, a sales rep for the Herald Gazette. “She always strives to make a positive impact in our community,” she said. “As a client of hers, I know first-hand that she prides herself in making sure she and her staff provide outstanding service.”

Gullo admits she was shell-shocked when she heard she’d been nominated. “I didn’t understand why,” she said with a laugh. “It’s difficult to open a business, especially since it’s not a family business, but we get through each day. It’s great to be appreciated and acknowledged.”

Gullo first joined Allstate in 1997 and worked through college. In her 23-year career with the company she has opened three agencies, and handled an enormous amount of claims during Superstorm Sandy. “That was a tremendous opportunity to learn the claims process, help people pick up the pieces and put things back together,” she said.

While her friends up and moved their careers to New York City, Gullo opted to stay close to home. As a native of Manhasset, she found joy in servicing her friends and neighbors. And when an opportunity rose to own her own business, she seized that, too. “I worked for great people who were business owners and I just wanted to live like that,” she said. “Talking to people and handling claims is definitely up my alley, and there’s never a dull moment here.”

Gullo recalled helping a client who was buying a $3 million mansion in Brookville. He didn’t speak a word of English. “We had to use Google translator to write the policy and set the inspection,” she explained, “but he got his claim paid and his house fixed.”

The Glen Head agency sets itself apart by treating its clients like people, not policy numbers. “That’s what I strive to do with every person, every conversation and every quote,” Gullo said. “And I work really hard because I care. I really care about everybody that comes through here. They’re all like my children; I feel like I have 1,700 children.”

And her clients can attest. “Celeste is passionate and driven in her profession as an Allstate business owner, as well as in her charitable and community efforts,” Rivera said. “She consistently partners with Island Harvest, Mommas House and Living Water for Women, and supports her staff wholeheartedly.”

Lisa Cohen, the executive director of Living Water for Women, said Gullo has been a partner with the organization for three years. “She’s collected a ton of paper goods and women’s toiletries and brought it here, led a driver’s safety class for our women and even gave someone from our organization a job,” Cohen said. “[Celeste] has always been supportive.”

As she continues to breed her business, Gullo acknowledges the support she’s received from her staff, her clients and other local business owners in the community. She said she looks forward to servicing residents for generations to come.

“Insurance is a journey,” Gullo said. “I’m going to deal with your future wife, your ex wives; your new house, your old house; when you crash your car, when you get your new one; and I’ll do your life insurance, too.”