SPRING HILL — A new funeral home, in response to changing mores, is focused on serving the living, providing homelike conviviality and social amenities that reach beyond attention to death.
Yvette and Jim Klausch, licensed funeral directors with 40 years professional experience between them, launched DeMarco Family Funeral Home this year, featuring a new concept in funeral service locally — personal reception and catering services.
"Our goal is make sure our guests are comfortable," said Yvette DeMarco Klausch.
Central to the concept — and the interior space at the 6000-square-foot establishment — is a great room resembling a country club dining room. It features circular dining tables draped in linen, surrounded by upholstered dining chairs seating up to 65, plus three buffet serving stations.
"We wanted our funeral home to be like home, so that when guests walk in, it's not funeral home-ish," said Yvette DeMarco, 57.
Large and small chapels are off to the sides. Rather than visitors passing time in rows of chairs in the chapels, they are encouraged to gather and share refreshments or a meal in the great room.
"Funeral homes in (urban areas) have done away with chapels," said Jim Klausch, 67. "In the last five or six years, they've veered away from traditional funerals. They've gone to party rooms. They want to sell you this big party."
"Church basements and fellowship halls were traditional gathering places in the past," said the Rev. Dr. Jerrold T. Jones, a retired church pastor of 25 years who serves as the occasional Spring Hill guest pastor. "Also, Masonic lodges and other fraternal/maternal homes served the same purpose."
Membership in these institutions has declined, leaving more grieving families without associations to serve them in their time of need.
"Funeral homes have gotten into the hospitality business to fill that void and to add more services," Jones said. DeMarco is the first local funeral home he knows of to take this approach.
A party room concept was a bit much for the Klausches, who prefer to maintain a greater measure of dignity within the hospitality arena.
Furthermore, said Yvette, a third-generation funeral director, "Something my grandfather taught me, you never sell a family something they don't need, and you never go in debt for a funeral."
"Families are very vulnerable at this time," she said. "Older people don't want to eat when their spouse dies," for instance.
Also, with Florida's transient population, many funeral guests are visiting from out of town.
"Not a lot of restaurants around here have private dining rooms," she said, which led the DeMarcos to add a funeral home dining room and food service. Dining can be scheduled at hours of the family's choosing. The Klausches offer complimentary coffee and cookies during visiting hours.
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An experienced cook, Yvette Klausch will cater on-site affairs. Her menus range from appetizers and snacks through brunch, lunch and dinner, along with children's selections and are priced from $5 to $14 per person. Most popular to date is the Italian buffet, which draws on her Italian cooking heritage.
Families also may order catering from elsewhere or bring their own prepared dishes.
No fee is charged for families bringing their own fare, with the funeral home supplying tableware, heating and refrigeration units.
Yvette Klausch is a native of Endicott, N.Y., where her grandfather established the first DeMarco Funeral Home. Jim Klausch grew up in Pasco County. Before embarking on their new business, the Klausches served at similar funeral homes, as well as corporate-owned facilities in New Port Richey, Hudson and Tampa.
"No matter where you go," Jim Klausch said, "there's still that group of people who want to have something, to socialize with relatives and friends."
Added Yvette, "We came up with this to ensure people have some place to go."
Contact Beth Gray at email@example.com.