Since 1958, Perches Funeral Homes has served families of all faiths who have suffered the death of a loved one. For almost 60 years they have worked hard to assist those who have been touched by such a loss with dignified, personal service at a reasonable, affordable cost.
“My parents started the funeral home in 1958. My dad, Salvador, had always been a hardworking entrepreneur and had had a few businesses throughout his life. Just before starting the funeral home, he had a bus business transporting people from Juárez, Mexico to Northern Mexico. He had a few daily routes with three buses, but as time went on and the government increased border security, he was forced to close up shop,” explains Sal Perches, Owner of Perches Funeral Homes.
After closing the chapter on his bus business in 1958, Salvador had a friend who urged him to get into the funeral industry. Without knowing anything about the industry other than the fact it was a steady business, Salvador bought two hearses, an embalming machine, a table, and other miscellaneous supplies. In no time at all, he transformed his bus station in Juárez into a funeral home. The rest is history.
“I was born in 1969 in El Paso, Texas and was the only boy in the family out of 8 kids. When I was young my father always took me to the funeral home – it’s where I grew up. As a boy I would wash hearses, help with removals, deliveries – a little bit of everything,” recalls Sal.
The dynamic of El Paso is truly unique. Many people live in Juárez and travel to El Paso for work or vice versa. Salvador wanted to move to El Paso to give his children access to better schooling in the United States and then commuted to Mexico for work every day. After finishing high schooling 1988, Sal went to Dallas for mortuary school.
“When I was done with mortuary school, my dad asked me if I wanted to work in our casket factory in Monterrey, Mexico to better learn the ins and outs of the casket business. At age 20, I moved to Mexico and began to learn the business. We were the first company to export caskets to the United States and it was not easy. The larger manufacturers would assume we were inferior and that our caskets were no good. I opened a small storage space in San Antonio, pulled a trailer with my truck, and physically knocked on doors. It was a tough few years of making cold calls and selling against huge companies, but I was dedicated, and I learned so much,” explains Sal.
After showing at conventions and continuing to make cold calls, and even showing Paris, France, Sal eventually made a name for Mexican caskets. After about 10 years however, Sal realized he cared more about the service aspect of the industry and to invest more time in that, got out of the casket business. Just a few years before Sal moved back to the states, Perches opened a funeral home in El Paso in 1996 – the first location in the U.S.
“After moving back, I opened up funeral homes in San Antonio and Austin. Unexpectedly my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2000 and we lost him very quickly – just three months after he was diagnosed. After that happened, I sold my interest in San Antonio and Austin and moved back to El Paso to take care of the main aspect of the business in Juárez and around the boarder. When my father passed, he left us with 5 funeral homes and today we have grown that to 16 funeral homes, 4 crematoriums, 2 cemeteries, and our own preened company located in Mexico,” says Sal.
Lead by Sal, Perches Funeral Homes truly stand out in the industry. The Perches family has set the bar high when it comes to service and community involvement.
In 2013, American Funeral Director magazine named Sal, Funeral Director of the Year. Nominated by his sister Laura, he was selected from among many deserving submissions for his community and charity involvement, as well as his dedication to providing the poor and victims of violence with dignified, affordable funerals. Sal’s work in Juárez really made him stand out as he was being considered for the award, due to the amount of violence the city had seen in recent years.
From 2008 to 2012, the city of 1.3 million people was widely deemed the most dangerous place in the world. Murders shot above 3,700 in the worst year. Criminals kidnapped and extorted with impunity. A quarter of all cars stolen in Mexico were stolen in Juárez. Businesses closed by the thousands.1
Sal’s devotion to the communities he serves, and his charitable work were just a few of the things that made him the perfect candidate for the award. Thankfully today, the homicide rate in Juárez has dropped dramatically, but at the peak of the drug trade fueled violence, there were as many as eight killings a day, and being in the funeral business was overwhelming, emotionally exhausting, and dangerous. In order to keep up, Perches Funeral Homes had to hire additional staff during that time and work around the clock. Even in these hard times, Sal made sure to give each service the attention it deserved.
In addition to providing low-cost funerals for the poor, Sal has kept his father’s tradition of providing burials at no cost for the elderly who have died alone in a state-run nursing home in Mexico, and works closely with Candlelighters in El Paso, a non-profit that helps children who have cancer.
Sal attributes a lot of his success to the amazing relationships he had been able to form over the years in the industry. One that really stands out to him is Security National Life Insurance Company.
“We have been working together for over ten years and it’s a wonderful relationship. Every year with them we have seen growth. I have known them all for so long, I think of them like family,” mentions Sal.
He also mentions that much of the family business’ success comes from how they cater to the Hispanic population in their region. Perches Funeral Homes offer very competitive prices for their area and unmatched service.
“El Paso is 85% Hispanic with a population growing close to one million people. When we opened a location in El Paso in 1996, the name alone meant something to the people there. We try to honor what my dad started so many years ago each day. We want our families to feel at home. We have a large lobby where they can gather and stay for a while. There is space for catering and we let them stay as long as they need – some families have stayed until midnight and we love that we are able to give them a space to do that,” explains Sal.
This past summer, Perches opened their fifth location in El Paso.
Today, Perches competes with many corporate funeral homes, but still comes out on top and continues to be the go to choice for families in the community. In September of 2016, Perches honored Juan Gabriel, Mexican singer, songwriter, and actor with a service that many will remember for years to come.
Juan Gabriel’s ashes were escorted from West El Paso to the Stanton Bridge as hundreds showed up to get a final glimpse of the beloved singer. With a heavy police presence and a handful of vehicles following behind, Juan Gabriel’s ashes were escorted via a procession from West El Paso through the Stanton Bridge to his final resting spot in Juárez. Juan Gabriel’s family and officials in Juárez wanted to ensure that his fans would be able to see his urn. The urn was mounted to the top of a hearse on a wooden structure with over 500 roses. The procession brought together two cities and hundreds of people so beautifully – a service only Perches could provide.
Sal and the entire Perches team was also heavily involved in organizing the Pope’s Mass that took place early 2016 in Juárez – just a few feet from the U.S. border. When the Mass was first announced, Sal and the community only had about 4 weeks to get everything in order and ready for the Pope’s arrival. It was important that the Mass be held in Juárez so close to the border as the Pope was to touch on topics such as violence in the area and immigration problems – a message he addressed to drug lords, corrupt government officials, oligarchs, and even bishops.
“We had no idea what we were doing but we knew we had to help. It was a crazy few weeks. Everywhere the Pope goes requires an altar. We were told he was very simple and they he did not need anything over the top or fancy. The boulders used in the altar were each about two tons and had to be lifted by crane and shaped to properly hold the granite slab that rest on top,” recalls Sal.
The granite slab and the man who cut it was a big part of the Mass as well. Born in Mexico, but raised in Texas the slab was cut by a deportee and brought the issues of immigration and deportation to light. Pedro Campos, left his wife and three children behind when he was deported in 2002. In the states, he learned his trade and found work making kitchen counters for well to do families. When he first returned to Mexico, he worked at making kitchen counters. But with thousands dying each year — nearly 11,000 between 2007 and 2013 — he soon found more work making headstones.
Working together with Sal and the community, Pedro was able to cut the granite perfectly – the finishing touch to the altar. The Pope’s message to the 200,000 people that attended the mass and visit to Juárez is a day Sal will never forget.
“It was an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I’m proud to have been a part of it,” says Sal.
Perches Funeral Homes offer dignified services at affordable prices to their families in the United States and Mexico. In the most difficult times, they strive to provide families with information about funeral and cremation services so that they can make informed decisions and organize a service that is perfect for their loved one. Sal, his family, and all the Perches team work hard to carry on his father’s legacy. Perches Funeral Homes offer unmatched expertise and their passion for what they do shines through even the darkest of times. It’s no surprise that the family owned funeral home has continued to grow year after year. Their charitable practices, attention to detail, and love for their community has made the Perches name one that will not be forgotten. FBA