Kevin Brown began his career in funeral service in 1991, when he started working at a funeral home in Fort Bragg, California. Kevin was headed for a career in law enforcement, but after connecting with a member of his church who needed help on the weekends at his funeral home, Kevin quickly realized that maybe he needed to change careers.
“I wasn’t too interested at first and I had never been around death before, but I took him up on the offer because I liked the idea of making a little extra income and helping out a member of my church,” begins Kevin Brown, Founder and CEO of Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service.
Kevin assisted initially by going on calls and helping with removals. In no time at all, he found himself contemplating a career change. After some serious thought, Kevin eventually decided that being a funeral director was in fact what he wanted to do and began a two-year apprenticeship. After his apprenticeship, he knew this was more than a job – it was a calling. He graduated from San Francisco College of Mortuary Science as a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer, working in California and Nevada until he relocated to Colorado.
After years as a funeral director and embalmer, Kevin was feeling burnt out and left the business altogether. In addition to his work in the funeral industry, he and his wife Sheila had a marketing business that had been doing well. At a young age, they were both able to retire.
“But as it turns out, retirement is way overrated,” laughs Kevin. “I found myself sitting around and thinking ‘well now what?’ he recalls.
When Sheila questioned Kevin about what he wanted to do, he told her that he wanted to go back into the funeral business and open a funeral home of their own. In no time at all, Kevin and Sheila opened Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service in 2014 and have had great success upon doing so.
“Sheila is such a vital part of this business. She joined me with no experience in the funeral industry but her fresh perspective has really made our funeral home unique. From day one she brought new ideas to the table, and I honestly fought her every step of the way,” recalls Kevin. “The way she wanted to do things was so different than what I was used to, but she pushed me outside of my comfort zone and showed me that the industry could use some changes,” he continues.
Sheila is known for how easily she can envision how something will come together. She can walk in to a condemned building and see how it can be turned into something great. She was responsible for selecting the properties for Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service, transforming them, and creating the overall brand identity of the firm. She pushed the firm into the 21st century with software that made meeting with families much more efficient and streamlined. She even hand sews bags for families that choose cremation but don’t select an urn, so they don’t have to receive the cremated remains in a plastic urn. She pays close attention to detail and goes the extra mile for families.
“Sometimes I don’t know how she does it. She’s truly amazing. She sees things that I can’t see. She’s always got a tape measure in her hand and is constantly coming up with ways to make our business better,” Kevin says proudly.
Kevin’s years of experience in this industry combined with Sheila’s creative eye and outside the box thinking makes them the perfect match. For years, Kevin dreamed about having a modern funeral home where families could choose simplicity without compromising dignity. Where funeral merchandise and services are affordable to everyone, and where customers are treated like family. With Sheila’s help, they have done just that.
“I wanted to create a funeral home where the minute families walk in, they can sense just how much we care about them – and not pretend to care, truly care,” says Kevin.
The same commitment is shared by the entire team of Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service. When assembling their team, Kevin and Sheila were careful on who they selected. This close attention to detail and dedication to finding the right person for each role is a big part of the Grand Junction funeral home’s success.
“When we are looking for people, we are looking for people that think like us. We look for people that are compassionate, caring, and honest. When we serve a family, we really care for them and treat them like they are a part of our family. We found a team that we know will do the same,” explains Kevin.
By emphasizing the care in death care industry, Kevin and Sheila now have the number one funeral home in Western Colorado and they managed to secure that title in just five quick years. They will finish out this year with almost 800 calls.
Having an honest business that people can trust is a pivotal aspect of Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service and it’s what they look for in their business partners as well. By surrounding themselves with likeminded people who they can trust, the Colorado funeral home has concocted a recipe for success. Take their relationship with Mid-States Recycling for example:
“Kevin McKay and I met at a CANA meeting in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. Since then I had tried a couple of other companies; Kevin continued to stay in contact with me and we always had great conversations. I thought I would give his company a try and I’m so glad I did. What I quickly found out is that the other companies I used in the past were not honest with me by any means. I truly appreciate the honesty, transparency and commitment that we have received from Kevin McKay and Mid-States Recycling, and I look forward to a long working relationship with them,” says Kevin.
At Brown’s, they do everything they can to help families in every way possible and this is the reason they see growth with every year. Kevin also makes it clear to his funeral directors that they should never pressure a family into buying something they don’t need.
“This is the wrong place for sales. When families come through our doors, they never feel pressure to do anything. We just want to make this process as comfortable as we can, and that can’t happen if we are constantly putting pressure on making a sale. We will design a funeral to their exact specifications and budget, and never push anything else. I think the way we do things here is really changing the culture of funeral service. Over the years, funeral service has gotten a bad reputation due to a few bad apples out there taking advantage of families in vulnerable times. Taking advantage of the fact that families are thinking with their hearts and not their heads. You have bad people in any industry, but in ours it’s just highlighted because the times are so sensitive,” Kevin opines.
Because of this negative stigma, The Browns wants to change the culture – one family at a time. They work hard to get people to believe in this industry again and have faith that funeral homes are here for the right reasons. While many may say that the funeral industry is dying, Kevin and Sheila feel that we are just on the cusp of it becoming something better than it has ever been.
“It’s amazing how much we have grown with each year. When we started the business, all we had was just a small warehouse with a tiny office upfront. The entire building was only 1400 square ft. We designed an embalming room in the back and bought a new crematory for back there as well – it was so small!” laughs Kevin. “When I would meet with families, you could literally hear the crematory rumbling faintly in the back because it was so close. I would always assure our families it was the air conditioning because I didn’t want them to be freaked out,” he lightheartedly recalls.
In just a matter of months, Brown’s quickly out grew that small warehouse space. They then bought and got to work renovating a new space downtown. More recently, built a brand-new prep center aside from the downtown location that houses their embalming space, crematories, viewing room, a staging room for dressing and casketing, a six- car garage, and casket storage.
“This is a tough, tough business. No doubt about it. But we love it. I don’t think we would change a thing,” Kevin says humbly.
In addition to their state of the art facilities, passionate team, and overall dedication to making this industry better, Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service has an awfully cute secret weapon. Enter Sophie, a golden retriever and unofficial therapy dog.
“She doesn’t have any formal training, but she was born to do this. She has a real sense for who needs her and when. Just the other day, we had a little girl who was about 7 and her dad had passed away. Her family took her to see her dad in the chapel. As adults we have a hard time processing death, so I can’t imagine how hard it is for someone so young to process this. After seeing her dad, this little girl was just sitting out in our lobby and crying. Sophie came all the way out of my office, went out into the lobby, and laid her head in this little girl’s lap until she stopped crying and had completely forgotten what was going on in the chapel and was smiling again,” describes Kevin.
Sophie is a vital member of the team. Sometimes people stop in just to see her. She works just as hard as everyone else to make sure families are comfortable. She truly cares about everyone, which makes her a perfect fit for Brown’s.
The passion, hard work, and dedication of the Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service team is apparent in everything they do. With each service, they are further solidifying that this industry deserves to have a good reputation. They work hard to make these difficult times easier for families and are proof that a funeral home can be successful without pushing sales. They treat families as if they were their own and strive to make this industry better each day. With Kevin and Sheila leading the way, it’s no surprise that this Colorado funeral home has found success and will continue to do so in the years to come. FBA