Celebrating 100 Years in San Francisco

Steven Welch is a guy that I think I would like.  He is the 4th generation owner of Duggan’s Funeral Service in San Francisco, California – a funeral home that is celebrating its 100th year in business this week.  Here is an article that you can read from the San Francisco Chronicle on the funeral home and its history.

A year ago Funeral Director Daily ran an article that you can read here about the problems of operating a funeral home in the highly population dense city of San Francisco.  That article pointed out some of the obstacles in operating a funeral home with high overhead costs in a community where cremation has hit at a high rate and high rise condos have soared.   It related the enticement of funeral home owners to sell their properties to real estate developers for much more than the business was worth.  In roughly the last half century, according to city records, 42 funeral homes have dwindled to 13 funeral homes as of last year.

Welch has resisted the developers.  That’s why I think I would like him.  According to the Chronicle article he has had ample opportunities to sell his funeral home to developers, but he stated, “I see the funeral home as a key element of the community.  We have a responsibility to keep it going.”  Duggan’s continues to be family owned and is one of the oldest small businesses in the city.

Of course it takes a good operator to keep a small business going among the changes of a major city like San Francisco.  According to the article, Welch has transformed his funeral home from a sleepy 112 call mortuary in the 1980’s to a 665 call mortuary today.  He has  obviously been opportunistic as other funeral homes have sold to developers in that he has gained their calls.  That is smart business. . .and takes a good operator to seize on the opportunity.  Moving to 665 calls from 112 in about 35 years is about a 14% annualized growth rate and takes a very good operator to continue to innovate while growing at that rate.

What started as a funeral home in 1918 after his great-grandfather arrived from Ireland and opened Duggan’s Funeral Service in 1918 as a generally Irish-Catholic facility – which stayed that way until the mid 1960’s – has evolved into a funeral home where the staff speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish as well as English.

It’s always great to write about a tribute to our profession. . . here’s a tip of the hat to Steven Welch for his continued service to his community.

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