March 2007

The Chapel, a bar/restaurant in Seattle, Washington opened in 2003 in the building that once housed the Butterworth Funeral Home.  The business was started in 1892 (the building itself dates to 1923) and was sold to one of the corporates in 1997 and closed in 2003.

Seattle Chapel 02.jpg

You can read the full story about this interesting bar here.


On the last full day of our trip, we took a train ride to Hampton Court, the site of Henry VIII’s summer residence.  It’s a gigantic palace with beautiful gardens and an impressive maze constructed of box hedges.

During the train ride back to the city, I snapped the next two pics.  The first shows a funeral director’s building.  I could go on about his name and it’s relation to his business, but I found something else more intriguing.


Look at the closeup here.  This is the business that shares space in his building. 


Typical Response:  “Um… well… er….”

 More effective answer:  “Because when you call us at 2 AM when your loved one has died, ten employees go to work for you right away.”

 Answer courtesy of Robert Falcon of Heritage Funeral Home.

While I would normally not push you to read another funeral writer (I should be able to tell you everything you need, shouldn’t I?) something written by Doug Hernan at made me sit up and take notice.

 Read his full article here.

The part that really caught my attention was his suggestion that you not only survey your own families, but that you send surveys to the families your competitors serve.  Say what?

How genius, and how simple.  He gives some sample text, which ends with an invitation to your holiday remembrance service.

Doug’s got some great ideas, which, along with his well-researched articles and splendid industry statistics, is the reason I read his column every day.

Check it out!

This casket (above and below) was made entirely out of items bought at IKEA.  You can purchase the plans for $27.50 at this website.



Of course, you could try the Ecopod (above) from England.  Made to resemble a giant seed pod, this casket is biodegradable.  You can see their full website here.

Too often, funeral directors cross their arms and stand firm when a family asks for something out of the ordinary.

 Robert Falcon of Heritage Funeral Home in Harker Heights, Texas gave me the inspiration for this topic when he mentioned that if his car dealer had acted this way when he went to buy his last Cadillac, he’d have searched for a different provider.  He wanted the options and car that appealed to him, and his dealer, anxious for a sale, worked extra hard to find the car that matched his client’s needs.

So why do funeral directors feel justified telling a family that it’s “our way or the highway?”  Is it the necessary nature of the business?  We don’t think families have a choice, so we can afford to be jerks?  Unfortunately, the wholesale rush toward direct cremation (most evident in Florida, California, etc.) reveals that consumers are tired of not being given real choices.

Maybe we’re tired?  If so, get out of the way.  This is not your grandfather’s funeral industry anymore.  Of course, this might mean you’ll have to figure out how people in other fields sell their products.  I’d suggest you read a few business books. 

Robert Falcon’s funeral home sells unique funeral services with everything from horse-drawn hearses to dove releases (with their own birds).  Robert and I both believe that tomorrow’s funeral home (selling to experience shoppers) needs to take cues from other industries to be relevant to today’s consumer.  It requires remarkable funeral homes.  By remarkable, I mean Seth Godin’s definition:  something worth being remarked about.

Realtor by Night...Heath Holverson of Alsip & Persons Funeral Chapel in Idaho comments on his blog about seeking the copyright to the Superman logo for the urn of a client:

 Read it here.

It just goes to show that a little determination and a willingness to TRY HARDER will pay off for your families.

While I don’t know how much Heath bragged to the family about the difficulties in getting this accomplished, I would have made a HUGE SPECTACLE out of the entire thing.  I’d have told the family that the urn company refused to engrave without permission from the copyright holder, but that I was trying desparately to get an answer from DC Comics for them.  Then, after the approval came, I’d tell them I pulled a few strings to get it done.

Dishonest?  Hardly, but it does stretch the truth a bit.  If Heath hadn’t been willing to make the extra effort, the family would have had to settle for something other than what they really wanted. 

 So maybe you shouldn’t LIE, but I’d encourage everyone to make sure your clients know what you’ve actually done for them.  And while Heath can feel good about going the extra mile for his client family, he needs to make sure that the family and his superiors know how dilligent he was on their behalf. 

So often we complain about the “servers” in our life (bus drivers, garbage collectors, waitresses, etc.) who fail to go beyond the very basic their jobs require.  It’s important to acknowledge when someone takes the time to make a service provided truly memorable.

I’m sure Heath’s job description did not include the navigation of legal channels to secure one-off rights to a multi-billion dollar entertainment icon for a family who doubtless paid no additional fees for his efforts.

Congrats Heath, on a job well done.

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