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Archive for May, 2015

Last fall I wrote a blog entry about our new venture at our Fruitport, MI location called Sunset Celebrations. I told you that we were converting our existing funeral home into a facility that was capable of hosting different kinds of family oriented events like Graduation Open Houses, Birthday Parties, Retirement celebrations, baby showers and other similar events in addition to the Funerals and Memorial Services and Celebrations of Life. I used the words Event Center to describe the facility, because that’s what’s it’s purpose was now. A place to hold family events.

dianes reception (5)

wedding reception

Since we re-opened in September we have hosted a wedding reception, a Retirement Party, a Company Christmas party, an Anniversary party, two Memorial Services, two Funerals, several business meetings and a Vendor party where local Tupperware/Avon/Amway type folks displayed their products. They were all very successful events and everyone was very happy with the facility and we were receiving new calls every week to reserve the facility for events in the spring and summer.

Then in January we got a letter from the Village of Fruitport Building Inspector telling us to cease and desist from hosting events other than “funerals” because we were zoned as a funeral home and not as a Banquet Hall. The only major difference between the two zoning rules was that a Banquet Hall required 2 acres of land and a funeral home only requires one acre. Plus there is nothing in the funeral home zoning rule that prohibited us from hosting other family events.  But in an effort to be good neighbors we stopped taking further reservations and started efforts to resolve this issue with the Village Council so we could continue to serve the demands of the public.

Now we have run into some major challenges with definitions and words.

What is the definition of a Funeral? What is the definition of a Memorial Service? What is a Celebration of Life. What is a Home Going Celebration? What is a Farewell Party?  The fact is each one of the events I just listed are family gatherings recognizing a marker moment in someone’s life. Each one of those events is a gathering of people in a building where there are tables and chairs for people to sit around. Food and beverages are typically served. There are photographs displayed and videos shown on TV’s. There is often a microphone so everyone can hear the stories that people want to share with each other and there is music for all to hear. There is a parking lot for cars and restroom facilities for our human needs. Those are the basic elements and activities of every one of those events.

Now, let’s think about retirement parties and graduation open houses and anniversary parties and baby showers and wedding receptions. The fact is each one of the events I just listed are family gatherings recognizing a marker moment in someone’s life. Each one of those events is a gathering of people in a building where there are tables and chairs for people to sit around. Food and beverages are typically served. There are photographs displayed and videos shown on TV’s. There is often a microphone so everyone can hear the stories that people want to share with each other and there is music for all to hear. There is a parking lot for cars and restroom facilities for our human needs. Those are the basic elements and activities of every one of those events.

I hope you noticed that the italicized words describing all of those events are exactly the same. The exact same thing happens at each and every one of those events.

I ask this rhetorical question. So…Is my newly remodeled facility a Funeral Home that also hosts Family Events or is it an Event Center that specializes in Funerals and Celebrations of Life? And does it really matter?

The fact is that the business of funerals has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Today 70% of the 450 families that we serve annually choose cremation. So where funerals were usually associated with a dead body being displayed in a casket, now that happens less than 30% of the time. The vast majority of the events we help plan and coordinate are not much different than a graduation open house. (Except that we a capable of planning and producing our events in just 3 days where most mothers take months to plan their senior’s open house)

I feel that if the Council of the Village of Fruitport wants to continue to have a local funeral facility to serve their community they need to seriously consider changing their rules to adapt to the future realities of funeral service. Nearly every Funeral establishment in our area now offers some type of reception services. It’s what the public wants. It only makes sense to allow us to host other family events too.

I’d love to hear what the rest of you out there think of this issue.

I’m Dale Clock.  Thanks for Listening.

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