Grave Subject of Funerals Moving into Local Malls - New York News

Grave Subject of Funerals Moving into Local Malls

Posted: Updated:

(FOX 11/ AP)   We eat there, buy our clothes there and some people suspect teenagers may actually live there. So perhaps it was just a matter of time until funeral homes began moving into the local shopping mall.

Over the past two years, Forest Lawn has been quietly putting movable kiosks in several of the malls that dot Southern California's suburbs.

The move, by one of the funeral industry's best known operators, expands on a marketing innovation that appears to have begun at the dawn of the decade when a company called Til We Meet Again began opening casket stores around the country.

"We try to reach our audience where they are at and the mall is a great way to do that," said Ben Sussman, spokesman for Forest Lawn, whose cemeteries count among their permanent residents such notables as Walt Disney, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson.

"And it's also, perhaps, a way to reach people who might be a little leery about coming directly into one of our parks," Sussman said.

As to why folks would be leery about that, industry officials acknowledge the answer is obvious: Who really wants to enter a funeral home even one day before they have to?

"Funeral planning is something everybody knows they must do, but at the same time it's something nobody wants to do," said Robert Fells, executive director of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association.

"Nobody gets up on a Saturday morning and says, `Gee, it's a nice day. I wonder if I can go out and get myself a burial plot,"' Fells said.

But if they're strolling past a funeral outlet at the mall, where they're surrounded by happy, lively people and maybe clutching a bag of Mrs. Field's cookies, the thought is that they'll feel differently.

"When they're going to the mall, people are not going out of need," said Nathan Smith, co-founder and CEO of Til We Meet Again, which has outlets in malls in Arizona, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Texas.

So if they do happen to see a place peddling coffins or urns while they're pricing T-shirts and hoodies, Smith said, it will look far less intimidating.

Forest Lawn's effort began modestly, with just one kiosk (one of those movable things that usually sell stuff like calendars or ties) in a mall in the Los Angeles suburb of Eagle Rock.

When no one was creeped out, the program expanded to about a half-dozen malls. Now Forest Lawn periodically shuffles them from one mall to another to reach the largest audience.

Unlike the people at other such stations, who can seem like carnival barkers as they walk right up to you and hawk discount calling plans or free yogurt samples, Forest Lawn's operators are more discreet.

At the entrance to a Macy's department in the LA suburb of Arcadia last year, operators were quick to smile and hand out brochures when approached. But they kept their distance until people came to them.

It was the same at a mall in Glendale last week, where people stopped to examine cremation urns ranging from one with a subdued design of leaves to another that brightly featured the logo for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

Also on display was a recruiting poster for potential future Forest Lawn employees, complete with a picture of the great Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, who urged them to consider "joining a winning team."

Still, not everyone is thrilled with the idea. "You're in a shopping mall and you're walking along and there's a funeral place?" retired high-school teacher Stan Slome said incredulously. "That sounds too deadly."

After thinking it over, however, he acknowledged it's something that could catch on.

At age 86, Slome said, he gets his share of mail from funeral operators inviting him to seminars at local restaurants, where he can have a meal on them while he hears a pitch on why he should use their services when he exits this mortal coil.

He doesn't care for that either, he said, but he figures somebody is attending those seminars.

If the mall effort catches on, said Jessica Koth of the National Funeral Directors Association, credit the aging Baby Boom generation at least in part. Historically, people have not wanted to talk, or even think, about their demise.

But Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom are pushing 70, are different. Many are beginning to press for so-called green funerals that don't require the use of coffins or burial vaults, Koth said. Others want custom-made coffins or urns that say something about who they were.

That often means something that represents a favorite car or sports team, said Smith of Til We Meet Again. He pointed out he even got a request once for a coffin built to resemble a portable toilet -- from a guy whose company made portable toilets.

With that mindset, could going to the mall and planning the whole deal just steps away from the Merry-Go-Round really be that unusual?

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Funeral for man who died after NYPD choke hold arrest

    Funeral for man who died after NYPD choke hold arrest

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 10:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 02:46:09 GMT
    An overflow crowd packed a church on Wednesday night for the funeral of a man who died in police custody after an officer placed him in an apparent choke hold. Eric Garner's relatives stopped in front of his open casket, some weeping and wailing. A preacher opened the service at Brooklyn's Bethel Baptist Church with a mix of solemn prayer and an organ-backed gospel medley.
    An overflow crowd packed a church on Wednesday night for the funeral of a man who died in police custody after an officer placed him in an apparent choke hold. Eric Garner's relatives stopped in front of his open casket, some weeping and wailing. A preacher opened the service at Brooklyn's Bethel Baptist Church with a mix of solemn prayer and an organ-backed gospel medley.
  • Another video shows NYPD cop putting man in choke hold

    Another video shows NYPD cop putting man in choke hold

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 10:08 PM EDT2014-07-24 02:08:13 GMT
    The NYPD is investigating another apparent choke-hold incident during a recent arrest that was captured on video. The video shows a police officer putting a man in a choke hold and then punching him in the face in a subway station in Harlem, police said. A community activist said he received the new video but never had any intention of releasing it to the media.
    The NYPD is investigating another apparent choke-hold incident during a recent arrest that was captured on video. The video shows a police officer putting a man in a choke hold and then punching him in the face in a subway station in Harlem, police said. A community activist said he received the new video but never had any intention of releasing it to the media.
  • New Jersey sues over Florida pizza shop logo

    New Jersey sues over Florida pizza shop logo

    The New Jersey Turnpike Authority wants a Florida pizza shop to pay a big toll for using a logo similar to the iconic Garden State Parkway's green and yellow signs.
    The New Jersey Turnpike Authority wants a Florida pizza shop to pay a big toll for using a logo similar to the iconic Garden State Parkway's green and yellow signs.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices