The staff at Springs Funeral Services takes a progressive approach to matters of death.
Unlike traditional funeral homes of the East Coast — with their heavy drapes, muted tones and antique-gallery aesthetics — the company’s four founding partners decided to create a more dynamic venue.
President Terri Flores-Brown said that after working in the industry for decades, she and her husband, vice president Arlen Brown, collaborated with son-in-law Hal Tumbleson on a concept to create a new niche in the local market.
“We felt like we could provide good service at a fair price,” said Tumbleson, director of operations. “Our motto has been ‘One family at a time,’ and after 800 families last year alone, I think we’re doing fine.”
A family affair
The three family members got together six years ago with Executive Vice President/CFO Paul Wood to start the company from scratch, which Flores-Brown said is rare in the industry.
“We didn’t buy an existing business, which is what is typical in the industry,” Flores-Brown said. “So we took a big chance.”
Flores-Brown said that despite that risk, the business had been successful in developing a client base even before opening the doors.
“We did 200 in the first year, which surpassed our expectations,” she said, adding that business has quadrupled since opening in 2008.
The team of family and colleagues at Springs Funeral Services has a combined 150 years of experience in the funeral business and most recently welcomed the Browns’ daughter, Shelby Shafer. Shafer rejoined the firm as funeral director after graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.
Unlike a typical funeral home, Brown said, their business functions as a one-stop shop for post-mortem planning.
“There is nobody in town that can match us in experience and match us in terms of the quality of staff we have,” Brown said. “Nobody in town can touch us.”
He said that Springs Funeral Services is among a dozen providers in the area, yet the only one that provides such an array of services. The facility has it all: body preparation, cremation, a large chapel and viewing room, a nursery and even a full-service floral shop.
And while they offer traditional funeral packages — urns, caskets and crematory options — the company also has facilitated events including meetings, weddings and birthday parties.
“People feel comfortable here — they like it,” she said.
Flores-Brown explained another reason people enjoy the services the company provides is due to the level of detail taken to ensure customer satisfaction.
Rather than employing specialists to work in different departments across the company, the team is composed of around 15 employees skilled at multiple functions.
“Our success has been because we care and people know that we will go the extra mile,” Flores-Brown said. “We believe that if we do the right thing, it will come — and it has.”
Just because Springs Funeral Services is progressive in its approach to mortal complexities doesn’t mean the crew has given up what it considers to be necessary tradition.
“We approach it the way we would want to be approached,” she said. “We don’t try to sell, but instead try to educate.”
They said the most difficult part of the job is perhaps dealing with the bodies of young victims of accidental death or those who have committed suicide.
“We don’t get used to this,” Flores-Brown said. “Yes, there are some days that are better than others. But when we started, it was mostly the elderly, and a tragedy was the exception.
“Now, it’s the other way around.”
For reasons such as this, Flores-Brown said the business focuses much of its attention on dispelling misinformation and educating future customers in funeral planning and what to expect when the time finally comes.
She said this can be particularly difficult with younger generations, who she said don’t seem to consider tradition and ceremony as much as previous generations.
“It’s really sad — it scares me,” she said.
In the company’s first six years, it has more than tripled its number of employees, added two new hearses, and its building has seen a remodel both inside and out. And the procession continues.
“We choose to make a living and put the rest back into the business — that’s where we’re different,” Flores-Brown said.
That is an atypical approach, she said. Most funeral homes stick with the same amenities and with tradition, but Springs Funeral Services is focused on adapting to the world around it.
In coming months, the team plans to fully landscape its property and repave its back parking lot to improve aesthetic appeal and visitor experience.
“Our primary focus is the service to the families — that’s why we opened,” Flores-Brown said. “We enjoy what we do.”
Though business is better than ever, Flores-Brown said that the industry has changed drastically since her days of auditing funeral homes across North America — service providers more competitive, clients more money-wary and future customers less forward-thinking.
What hasn’t changed is compassion, said Brown, who has been in the business for more than a half-century.
“If you get to the point where it doesn’t bother you,” he said, “you won’t be successful and you’ve got to get out.”