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Retail casket store thinks outside the box

'Til We Meet Again sets up shop on Lima Road

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 6:52 am

A retail casket store that was going to open in Glenbrook Square until the owners said the mall pulled the plug on the deal has opened on Lima Road.

'Til We Meet Again is at 6413 Lima Road in a strip mall in front of the Meijer store. The store is a franchise; the original store is in Wichita, Kan.

Brian DeCamp opened the store Sept. 15. He is a licensed funeral director and owns Hite Funeral Home in Kendallville.

Not only is a casket store in a strip shopping center unusual, the caskets 'Til We Meet Again sells are, shall we say, outside the box.

"The baby boomers really like the idea of personalization," he said. 'Til We Meet Again can customize the exterior and interior of a casket. "Give us an idea," he said. "We can work up almost anything."

On display in the store recently were a Colts-themed casket and a camouflage casket that might appeal to a hunter.

DeCamp said he buys the caskets from a company in Richmond and then has a company in Waterloo "wrap" the caskets using a product that is heat-treated to adhere to the casket. The wrap designs are created by computer; often the design starts with a photograph.

Wraps can be created using photos, say of a garden or farm or favorite fishing hole -- or perhaps flowers. The company created a casket for a family in Wisconsin that wanted one with a St. Louis Cardinals theme.

The customized caskets aren't as expensive as you might think, DeCamp said. They range from about $2,000 to $4,000, he said; an average traditional casket is about $3,500.

And they don't take long to create, once an idea is settled on. "What has to move quickly is the computerization" of the design, he said. Once the wrap is adhered to the casket it takes six hours to dry, he said.

DeCamp knows other funeral directors may not like clients buying a casket from a businss other than the funeral home. Traditionally, funeral homes have made a large profit from the sale of caskets, he said. But these days people can buy caskets online. He saw the traditional model of doing business changing, so in his own business he took the profit from the sale of the casket and put it into the embalming service, the removing fee (preparing a body to be taken out of the location where the person died) and dressing and presenting the body in the casket.

"So I don't really care where you get your casket," he said, speaking as a funeral home owner. He sells caskets for just slightly over cost and makes up the profit in the services that only funeral directors can provide.

Those who go to the store to design their own or a loved one's casket don't have to take it home or store it until it is needed. The casket is designed and paid for, and the money goes into a trust. "When death occurs then the casket is made," he said.

In addition to customized caskets the store also sells urns, including some that look like motorcycle gas tanks for the motorcycle enthusiast. The store also sells cremains jewelry, which holds a small amount of the deceased's cremains.

'Til We Meet Again is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and by appointment. Phone: 451-0555.