This isn’t your grandmother’s funeral



This recent article in Florida’s Business Observer is titled “Funeral home finds success with new life celebration model”.  The article goes on to discuss, among other business changes in the death care industry, the Robert Toale & Sons Celebration of Life Center in the Sarasota, Florida, area.


The Robert Toale & Sons Celebration of Life Center is a Service Corporation International (SCI)  owned facility operating under the Dignity Memorial brand.  It is a 6,700 square foot facility opened in May of 2022.  Jeff Toale, who operates the center says in the article, “It was a big investment”.  


On the Dignity Memorial website for the facility it is stated, “We provide traditional and contemporary funerals and cremations to people from all walks of life. We’re also a brand-new, state-of-the-art event center where celebratory experiences, action-packed activities and unique moments come together.”


As I perused the website and the photos shown on it, I was struck that there is really nothing that cries out “This is a funeral home/cremation center”.  And as I looked at the photos on the website, nothing about them said “funeral home or cremation center” to me.  The Business Observer article states this about the facility, “. . (the) building features include higher ceilings and more natural light and wood floors to make it more airy and sunny, and not so dark and gloomy. The centers also feature round tables instead of pews, to make it easier for people to talk to one another about their recently deceased friend or relative. The centers even have catering capabilities.”


It appears that non-funeral home design is part of the draw of the facility and, according to Toale, seems to be working.  He makes this comment in the article, “. . .  interest, and business, has been brisk”.  He also makes this comment in the article, “People don’t want a traditional funeral anymore.  But funeral directors can be a stubborn group.”


Funeral Director Daily take:  Not everybody is a big fan of SCI. . . . .But, I think it is very difficult to make an argument that since their inception that they have not been highly successful for their investors.  Agreeing with that statement would suggest that as they dive into the “new and different” aspects of death care they have been, more likely than not, on the advancing edge of movements, and profitable while doing so.  That history would suggest that these “Life Celebration Centers” will be catching on and challenge the “traditional funeral home facilities, at least in some markets.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Another thing that I was impressed by when I visited the Robert Toale & Sons Celebration of Life Center website was the complete General Price List (GPL) available on the website for consumers to look at.  And, not only did the price list enumerate what you might think – such as prices for Direct Cremation or Preparation of the Body – but there was an addendum of two pages of what I would call “unique charges” and services that are available.  You can access that price list here.


Some of those unique charges listed were for lunar orbits or for placing remains at coral reefs or for memorial diamonds.  Simply having those charges, even for services that may be performed by a third party, gives a consumer ideas for additional service that they might not have even thought about.  In a business, like death care, where in many cases revenue per case is dropping, those potential sales will help with that cause.


While many fight the Federal Trade Commission and the next iteration of the “Funeral Rule”, I think SCI, and their openness on this issue is ahead of the game here also.


A Way to Embrace This Movement — I’m a firm believer that not everybody wants to be traditionally buried or cremated.  There are those that want human composting and there are those that will choose alkaline hydrolysis.  In addition, there are those in the growing number of cremations who wish for reef placement, or memorial stones, or memorial jewelry.


Being known as the death care provider that can accommodate those wishes can only help your business.  My mortuary school classmate and friend Scott Mueller of St. Paul, Minnesota, is doing a wonderful job of becoming known as that provider in Minnesota even as he continues to operate traditional funeral homes.


How does he do it?  Simply by public relations and his website making known that he can help with those situations.  From my point of view, I think that these niche aspects of death care, such as memorial jewelry, human composting, forest burials, and the like will be a very much growing aspect of death care.


There is no better advantage than doing what you do and doing it better than any other competitor.  However, on that same train of thought, there is always some advantage in building the brand that does something first.  So, my advice is to make sure you have the proper ability, which may be through trusted third party vendors, to handle situations that your funeral home doesn’t offer.  But, I also think it makes some sense to add those services to your “list of services” so you build a base of consumers who trust you to carry out their wishes — “Whatever they are”.

Mueller Memorial website 

Mueller Memorial’s “Interra unit and “Services we Provide”

A Mueller Memorial success storyTwin Cities man’s dying wish:  “Compost me for the benefit of the Planet”.  Minneapolis Star Tribune (MN)

Disclaimer — The author of this article for Funeral Director Daily is a shareholder of Service Corporation International.


More news from the world of Death Care:


Enter your e-mail below to join the 3,447 others who receive Funeral Director Daily articles daily:

“A servant’s attitude guided by Christ leads to a significant life”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted in ,

Funeral Director Daily

1 Comment

  1. Wells Greeley on January 25, 2024 at 8:56 am

    Good morning Tom! Go gophers! Check out our website at We have had an events and reception center for about 10 years. Ironically, we do more non-funeral related events out of it than funeral related events. We feel glad to have it as an option for traditional services. Hope you are well, Wells Greeley.

Leave a Comment

[mc4wp_form id=9607]
advertise here banner