Business

A co-op funeral home defying the odds

Co-operative businesses were once very common place in America.  Especially in rural, agricultural America where co-operatives came together with dairy farmers banding together to produce milk products such as cheese and cream for the member farmers, or for area residents to co-operate to bring electricity to far flung farms, or for a mutual benefit society to co-operate with premium payments pooling to guard against a home or farm fire of one of the members.

In the death care business, even though there are “memorial societies”, co-operatives are rare in America.  The only true co-operative in that space in the United States that I have seen is the Minnesota Valley Funeral Home in New Ulm, Minnesota.  You can read about that business in this article.

The Minnesota Valley Funeral Home co-operative was founded in 1929 as a way to help provide proper, affordable burials to people in the agrarian community of New Ulm, Minnesota.  It is remindful to know that time period corresponds with the Great Depression in American society.

Today, according to the article, the Minnesota Valley Funeral Home has about 5,000 members who pay a one-time fee of $5 to join.  The funeral home operates like any other for-profit funeral home in America with the exception that at the end of the year, those families who have had funerals during the preceding year receive a dividend, or cash back, on their funeral from the profits the business generated during the year.

Co-op funeral director/manager Eric Warmka says revenue varies from year to year but it has been his experience that families receive anywhere from $500 to a few thousand dollars back on their funeral costs.

Warmka operates the funeral home, which did 270 calls last year, under the watch of a Board of Directors comprised of seven community members — none of whom have experience in the death care industry.

Related — While the Minnesota Valley Funeral Home co-operative is going strong after over 90 years in business.  We believe that there is room for other types of funeral homes to survive also.  Here is an article on Exit Here, a new storefront funeral home being developed in Great Britain.

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