No Grave Concerns for Funeral Business, Says Vaughn Greene

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Vaughn GreeneDespite recent reports that contend the once recession proof funeral business may indeed be dying, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services owner, Vaughn Green in Baltimore, MD., said his business is unearthed and on solid ground.
    
Long considered one of the few industries where job security was guaranteed, the funeral business has undergone major changes in recent years. Traditional funerals—including wakes, caskets, sermons, choirs and extravagant repasts, were the norm in African American communities—with Black churches and funeral directors reaping the sizable revenues generated from funerals—are becoming a thing of the past. The current trend is cremation and memorial service.
     
“At one time, cremation was about economics especially in the African American community,” Greene said in an interview with TNJ.com. “Not so much now as it is about the trend and consumers being upwardly mobile.” He added that as recently as 15 to 20 years ago, only between 2 and 3 percent of African Americans opted for cremation as the final means of disposition. “Now, that figure is about 20 to 22 percent,” he said.
     
For Greene, 55,  the foray into the funeral business started when he was a teenager and witnessed the aftermath of his uncle that was murdered. “He was my mother’s only brother and he didn’t have any resources,” he said. “Detectives and police came to the house and my family was distressed about the entire situation.” Greene said it was the director from a Baltimore funeral home that encouraged him to pursue a career in mortuary science. “He offered so much support to my family at the time and inspired me to make the funeral business my career,” Greene said. In addition, when he was 15, his grandfather got him a job doing odd jobs at a local funeral parlor and the seed for death industry business was planted.
     
According to figures from several funeral industry trade groups, mortuary science is a $20.7 billion dollar industry in America with the cost of an average funeral ranging between $8,000 to $10,000. Contrarily, a basic cremation and memorial service ranges between $1,500 to $2,000. The industry as a whole employs between 450,000 to 500,000 nationwide. Greene said his company does between 1,200 to 1,300 funerals and memorial services annually.
     
In 2010, Batchelor Brothers expanded and opened a location in Philadelphia, PA and, earlier this year, opened an office in Trenton, N.J. Funeral homes are still mostly multigenerational and family-owned enterprises. “We all handle the loss of loved ones in our own way and in our own time,” he said. “Grieving families look to the funeral director to lessen their burden and make their loved ones transition as peaceful and as possible.”