Some Corridor funeral homes adding weddings, other parties to offerings

Small national trend an option for funeral businesses to 'diversify'

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Visitors to Avacentre's website will see the facility hosts wedding receptions, outdoor weddings, corporate events and holiday parties.

The site offers information about catering services and special occasion packages.

But nowhere on the site does it inform visitors the Avacentre is located at the same address as the Brosh Chapel, 2121 Bowling St. SW, Cedar Rapids.

That is because Matt Linn, owner and president of the businesses, wants people to think of the venue as two separate businesses one of them is a place to buried loved ones, the other a place for celebration and joy.

The goal is to diversify, Linn said.

"As a business, everything evolves and diversification is kind of the key," he said.

Brosh Chapel is not the only such operation to look for ways to broaden their revenue stream. Between 8 to 10 percent of National Funeral Directors Association member funeral homes nationwide have banquet/reception facilities, said Jessica Koth, National Funeral Directors Association spokeswoman.

In 2008, that number was six percent, she added.

"That's where I think things are moving," Linn said. "It's like the end of life, that's the only time you ever really get to work with them, but if you do an events center, you get lots of life events so we created something new.

It's a place that can host a birthday party, an engagement party, a wedding reception "life events," he said.

Since January 2010, Avacentre has hosted 75 weddings or wedding receptions. The business employs four full-time staff and 20 part-time employees.

The indoor banquet space is 1,800 square feet, and an outdoor patio offers an additional 1,000 square feet. The wedding chapel can be indoors or outdoors, Linn said.

Murdoch Funeral Homes & Cremation Services opened a reception center for funeral-related activities three months ago, said Jeff Rosauer, funeral director and location manager.

The funeral home, at 520 Wilson Ave. SW, has a cemetery, and lunch often is held at the reception center afterward.

"With fewer people going to churches, it's nice that they can do it at our funeral home," he said.

The new center can seat 150. When the reception center opened, the facility also obtained a beer and wine license and arranged for a catering service, Rosauer said.

In the three months the reception center has been open, 75 funeral-related events have been held there, he said.

Linn said the future of his business may be solely the Avacentre.

"I'd say probably now 90 percent of people that call the Avacentre would be in an age bracket from probably 20s up until 50s (and) don't really know there is something else going on in that building. They really don't care," Linn said.

"When it's brought up to their attention, 'Oh, did you know you're having your wedding at the funeral?' They'll be like, 'What are you talking about? I'm having it at the Avacentre.'"

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