These commercials featuring actor Lou Diamond Phillips helped to raise the profile of Chowchilla-based Golden memorial Insurance Services, which has seen more than 520% growth in the last decade. Photo contributed.

published on January 10, 2020 - 9:56 AM
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For business owners, seeing a child take over the family business can feel as risky as it is rewarding, and the same could go for a parent and child that start a business together.

With yet another right to boast, the Central Valley is home to the self-proclaimed largest final expense insurance agency in the nation — Golden Memorial Insurance Services in Chowchilla.

This month, Golden Memorial hit what its owner believes is a world record with $50 million in annualized premiums in one year, making it one of the larger final expense agencies in the world, covering the bills loved ones face after a death in the family. These costs could include medical bills and funeral expenses.

In 1986, Ray Barragan had just gotten out of a four-year stint in the Army when his father, also named Ray, told him to come work with him selling insurance for Lincoln Heritage. Barragan joined his father, who had just started there four months prior. In that short time, his father had formed Golden Memorial Insurance Services.

Starting at only 21, Barragan learned all about the industry from his father, who had been an insurance salesman all his life. Through the years, the Barragan family worked to grow the business.


Ray Barragan Jr. Photo contributed.


In 1990, Barragan’s father wanted to expand out of Chowchilla, especially with more people looking into purchasing life insurance.

“TV commercials started coming out, mail advertisements came out, and people were way more aware that it costs $5,000 to $10,000 to be buried and people don’t have that money,” Barragan said.

After the passing of his father in 2008, Barragan took over the family business, which at the time was hitting around $600,000 a month in premiums, and he had to decide whether to remain in their current market, or expand out.

Barragan’s siblings also work for the insurance agency, and following the death of their father, the territories were split up between the three.

Golden Memorial Insurance has grown by over 520% from 2007 to 2018.

In 2018, Golden Memorial Insurance hired actor Lou Diamond Phillips, most famous for playing ‘50s Rock N’ Roll start Richie Valens in the film “La Bamba,” to be the agency’s spokesperson. The actor visited Fresno for two days to shoot a TV commercial at a local cemetery. Phillips has also done some voiceover work for commercials for Golden Memorial.

Barragan said that there has been an increase in interest for Golden Memorial after the commercial came out, and that people recognize the name even more.

Across the nation Golden Memorial has 30 offices, five in the Central Valley, and two more in California that are outside the Central Valley. The agency has offices in Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Texas.

Though Barragan doesn’t expect to see the growth that Golden Memorial has seen in the last few years in 2020, he hopes it will still be a good year for the agency.

“2019 was a big year. We had grown 15% and the industry was down nationwide with more competition,” Barragan said. “2020 we are looking to have Phillips in more commercials and trying to get actor Edward James Olmos. We are trying to keep a Central Valley theme. Hopefully we can manage our growth in 2020 and have a consistent year.”

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