By Thomas Clouse
The shifting landscape of the funeral industry has led to a business opportunity for someone seeking to purchase a very large, iconic building in Spokane that has two chapels, three apartments and its own crematorium.
But there’s a catch. While the Hazen & Jaeger Funeral Home building at 1306 N. Monroe St. is big enough to host around-the-clock memorials, the owners will not sell it to a new funeral home operator.
“It’s a great redevelopment opportunity,” said Jamie Moesges, a broker with Kiemle Hagood, who is listing the property, which includes a 0.88-acre lot for $1.75 million. “There is plenty of room. I feel there is another use out there for it. There’s been a lot of interest so far.”
Leila Bradish, Hazen & Jaeger general manager, said the company has stopped conducting memorials at the 30,000-square-foot building, which was listed for sale about four months ago. But the business will remain open at its other location at 1306 N. Pines Road in Spokane Valley.
“It’s a culmination of things,” Bradish said of the sale. “It didn’t make business sense to keep that business open in a building that large.”
The sale reflects several shifts in a funeral market that once primarily included a casket and a plot in a nearby cemetery. According to data from the National Funeral Directors Association, about 53 percent of American families in 2010 opted to have a casket and a burial, compared to about 40 percent who chose cremation.
But this year, that number is projected to flip: families are preferring cremation (56 percent) over burials (37.5 percent). Bradish said the percentage of cremations is even higher in the Pacific Northwest, where she estimates as many as 80 percent of local customers are seeking cremations over burials.
“One, most people think it’s a more simple process or decision” to use cremation, Bradish said. “No. 2, we live in a very mobile society. Very few people live in the same city or town where they were born. It’s certainly easier to transport cremated remains or an urn than it is to transport casketed remains.
“And the third reason is that people think that it’s less expensive,” she said. “For me, it’s interesting that we see a shift in what the community wants.”
With the changing demographics comes fewer funeral services, she said.
“Many people today are choosing what is considered in our industry as a direct cremation, which is a cremation without a service,” she said. “To me, I think that is sad. I think it takes away from honoring a life that’s been lived and it takes away from recognizing that we have a loss in our lives.”
In busier times, Hazen & Jaeger hosted a ton of mourners who honored a lot of lives. The building was constructed in 1922, and it’s big enough to host two ceremonies in each chapel.
At one time, employees would have to stagger memorial services on even and odd hours at both chapels to accommodate all the customers, Bradish said.
But recently, “we would host two maybe funerals a month. With the cost to maintain a building that high, it supersedes the cost of what a competitively priced funeral or cremation service would allow today,” she said.
The company was started in the early 1900s at a different location. The Jaegers sold out first and the Hazens continued to run the Monroe Street location into the 1970s before eventually selling the business to Dignity Memorial, which is a nationwide network of about 2,400 funeral homes.
Those families who have already purchased future services from Hazen & Jaeger at the Monroe location can still redeem those services at the Spokane Valley location or through Ball & Dodd Funeral Home in Spokane or Thornhill Valley Chapel in Spokane Valley, Bradish said.
“This building was built at time when Hazen and Jaeger was the place to go for funerals,” she said. “It has nine visitation rooms. There is a safe upstairs that I’m trying to figure out what to do with. It’s fantastic. So, we have a huge beautiful building, but the space wasn’t being used.”
While the iconic building no longer hosts services, employees still have a ton of work to complete before vacating the premises, Bradish said.
“We have over a 100 years of records,” she said. “It’s taking us some time to move out of the space. It’s a very large building.”
Bradish said the building is listed as one of the top examples of Gothic architecture in the state.
“It’s a really cool building,” Bradish said. “My staff and I really hope that the building goes to somebody who wants to honor the tradition of Spokane.”