In 2004 Ralph Little had a problem — he was the owner of the Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in South Florida. According to an article in the South Florida Sun Sentinal, Little then planned a 300 home development on the property that did not pan out. He thought about putting in a large-scale water park. That wasn’t going to work either.
So, today Little operates the Fairway Memorial Garden Cemetery on the property. It has a large marble mausoleum in the center and offers a full-range of death care related products including a traditional cemetery, a mausoleum, cremation niches, and even a pet cemetery. Forty seven acres are dedicated for the cemetery with another 47 acres were donated to the city for an adjacent park.
According to Little, he has enough area for roughly 20,000 graves, 70,000 crypts, 70,000 cremation niches and another 50,000 cremation spaces spread throughout the property. He suggests that his prices are roughly half the price of his traditional heritage-based competitors in the area.
Funeral Director Daily take: Reading this article reminded me of the 1980’s movie, Caddyshack, where actor Rodney Dangerfield, who plays a real estate developer proclaims in one of his lines, “Cemeteries and Golf Courses — the biggest waste of prime real estate in the country!”
All kidding aside — Mr. Little may have a money-maker here if it is done properly. I’m guessing that South Florida real estate is pretty expensive and the cemeteries that are out there are pretty traditional and have a high fixed-cost of doing business. Starting from scratch may give him a lot of flexibility and pricing to win over some of the very high-density population of South Florida.
It is interesting to see his potential mix of use — 90,000 units of inventory (2ok graves and 70k crypts) out of a total of 210,00 units (add in the 70k niches and 50k cremation grave spaces) is equal to about 43% reserved for casketed remains. I’m guessing that will prove to be a high amount, but the good thing is that with so much open space a new cemetery can change those plans as they move forward and see what is happening.
Again, this is an interesting concept. I see all kinds of pre-need marketing potential. I’ve always thought that cemeteries when selling pre-need cremation graves or niches should sell urns, as well as urn vaults, at that time as a way to generate ancillary income. As we move to more direct cremations without services in the country – as almost all surveys now indicate is a trend — I can see a potential for Fairway Memorial Garden Cemetery to add a crematory to their business operation as well.
It will be interesting to see how this all develops.