We spend an inordinate amount of time telling our readers of what is happening in the large public companies that make up that constellation in the death care universe. Don’t get me wrong, that information is good to have, easy to obtain as it is public by law, and much can be learned by seeing what the “Big Boys” of the profession are up to.
However, in the death care industry – funeral homes, cemetery, preneed, and monuments – I’m also of the opinion that the ideas and business protocols generated by the smaller, family owned firms are most times the best ideas that make businesses hum and profit. And, those ideas then percolate up to the top and many are captured by the large companies to make their businesses better. “Imitation is the best form of flattery” is often said.
As we many times report on the public acquisitions, we proportionately don’t always know or report on the changes going on in the private firms across our great land. And, I always have to remember, that about 85% of American’s funeral homes are still owned by small business. It’s estimated that there are about 19,000 funeral home businesses in America, not to mention the cemetery, preneed, and monument business. . . and if 85% of them are privately owned small businesses. . well, that’s over 16,000 small businesses for families to look to for their needs and over 16,000 potential small business customers for those in the death care supply businesses to market to.
Last week, I noticed at least three ways that these family owned small businesses moved in the marketplace. . . expansion, acqusition, and new ownership. . . and I thought today would be a good day to comment on that. . . .which in itself shows that the death care industry keeps moving forward.
Muir Funeral Home expansion — This article will tell you of the Muir Funeral Home of Michigan and their soon to be opening of an additional chapel. This chapel will be called the Muir Funeral Home and Celebration of Life Center and be located in Imlay Township. It will feature a handicap -friendly floor plan, large viewing rooms, private and family coffee rooms, and areas for luncheons in addition to other amenities.
It will also have as added conveniences a giftshop that features keepsakes, windchimes, garden stones, statutes, and memorial jewelry. Finally, the family’s headstone company, The Monument Station, will have a full showroom on the premises.
Christina Muir is quoted as saying, “This is very exciting for us. We can now offer a very beautiful 14,000 square foot building that offers opportunities for us to better serve the community.”
According to the article, the Muir family funeral tradition began in Dryden, Michigan in 1901.
Smith Family Acquisition — This article will tell you of the Smith Family Funeral Homes of North Little Rock, Arkansas, and their recent acquisition of the Little Rock Funeral Home from former owner Brad Leggett, a fourth generation funeral director.
This acquisition will give the Smith family, a 3rd generation funeral home, with Jeff Smith now serving as President, its 6th funeral home location in the greater Little Rock marketplace. In addition, the Smith Family will possess the only on-site crematories in Little Rock and North Little Rock.
Thinking of the growth of the Smith Funeral Homes, Jeff Smith commented in the article, “It’s humbling to think about how my grandfather sold everything he had to open my family’s first funeral home 65 years ago.”
Jeniece Ballerini purchases a business – Michigan’s Jeniece Ballerini’s father has owned and operated Leonardo’s Italian Grille in Romulus, Michigan for 36 years. That’s where Jeniece worked and learned business principles before she decided she wanted to enter the death care profession as a funeral director.
And, she recently took the next step, as you can read in this article that explains her purchase of the Walter Scott Skupny Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Roseville, Michigan. Founded by Walter Skupny, the funeral home has been a landmark Gratiot Avenue business and entwined in the community for more than 60 years. According to the article, Larry Skupny “sold it to Ballerini because she would keep the name going in the community.”
Ballerini is quoted in the article, “I’ve always wanted to own my own place. My dad always said it’s best to work for yourself if you can. You don’t find someone willing to sell a funeral home every day so you have to take advantage of it.”
According to the article, “Ballerini resides in Van Buren Township, earned a bachelor’s degree in business at Oakland University and after working at her father’s restaurant for a number of years, in 2015 received an associate’s degree in applied science, with an emphasis in mortuary science, at Worsham College in Ilinois.”
Catholic family firm changes hands – This article comes to us from the Intermountain Catholic and tells of the retirement of Mike O’Donnell, a 4th generation funeral director, and his subsequent sale, with his daughter, Katie O’Donnell Nilson, of the Neil O’Donnell and Sons Mortuary to Shawn Wiscombe and Matthew Medford.
According to the article the O’Donnell family first entered the mortuary business in 1889 when Edward G. O’Donnell purchased the Utah Undertaking Company.
One priest said in the article, “We all became very good friends along the way. After I was ordained a priest I did many funerals with them and vigils at the mortuary itself. We have been wonderful, lifelong friends and shared many meals together and told stories about the old days. As all things happen, things find their eventual end and a transition takes place – it’s the end of an era.”
So there you have it. Funeral service keeps moving forward. . . and it is not all about the big public companies. Expansions, acquisitions, and new beginnings continue to bring fresh blood and new ideas to the profession.