The funeral industry can be slow to change.
But that didn’t stop Einan’s at Sunset Funeral Home in Richland from offering the alternatives customers were seeking.
“The majority of people want customization, and they want unique options. The percentage of funeral homes that actually provide that is less than it should be,” said Holley Sowards, director of funeral operations at Einan’s.
Many people don’t want to go through a funeral home for their final arrangements, let alone step foot in one.
As a result of the industry’s reluctance to provide modern and more personalized options, funeral services typically are split between lowest-cost on-your-own cremation handled through an online transaction and more traditional full-service celebrations of life, which have a higher price tag due to the manpower and resources required to put them on.
But there’s an often-overlooked gray area in between.
That’s where Einan’s newest business venture, CODA Alternative Cremation and Funeral, comes in.
CODA aims to bridge the gap between the two extremes.
The alternative funeral home provides curated burial and cremation packages that are more affordable and streamlined than traditional funeral homes.
“We are uniquely positioned to be able to help anybody at any time under any circumstances under any budget,” Sowards said.
Officials celebrated CODA’s launch with a July 14 grand opening.
Einan’s, located off the bypass highway in Richland, is a full-service funeral home, cemetery and event venue that’s been in business for more than 70 years.
Sowards, who has been the funeral director at Einan’s for nine years, said it was difficult for the company to split its services apart into different categories.
She said her team’s emphasis is on providing a healing environment to help families through their grief journey after the loss of a loved one.
“We’re more focused on value as opposed to price,” Sowards said.
But the team saw a shift happening in the industry and realized it needed to diversify to accommodate more people in the community who can’t afford the full-service package for one reason or another.
“Funeral homes were slow to adapt to what consumers were wanting,” she said.
In 2018, Einan’s launched Compassionate Cremation Society, a low-cost online cremation service, to its suite of offerings.
“It’s the option for families with financial restraint – no extras, no frills, no nothing. It has become an option in the community for those facing those struggles,” Sowards said.
The next step was establishing CODA as a way to cover the vast spectrum between Compassionate Cremation and Einan’s full-service package.
“CODA is for families in the community looking for a middle price point. They don’t want to go bare bones and either don’t trust or find unnerving the online transaction, but also don’t want to pay for the full service,” Sowards explained.
Krista Williams, a lifelong Kennewick resident, said she wishes these options had been available when she lost her dad in 2014.
Williams, then in her 20s, was left to navigate the situation and foot the unexpected bill.
“Someday when you have to do the funeral arrangements for the most loved people in your life, you will know why this is a better option. I 100% would have selected this, rather than having to go to the funeral home,” she said.
Even choosing the “bare bones” cremation options available at the time, Williams said she faced a several thousand-dollar bill that she didn’t have the money to pay for.
But it’s not always necessarily that price prohibits customers from seeking the full Einan’s experience, Sowards said. More people want the freedom to customize their loved ones’ final arrangements to suit their vision.
Sowards said that was the biggest challenge Einan’s faced in launching the different businesses – “making sure the family knows what they’re getting and differentiating the models.”
Part of CODA Director Amy Eslinger’s job is to meet with families and get to know their needs and vision to ensure the service will meet their expectations.
She said one common misconception is that CODA doesn’t offer graveside services or a place to hold a celebration of life, but options for both are available, though there are limitations.
CODA’s office at 2909 S. Quillan St., Suite 104, in Kennewick is near Walmart and Fairchild Cinemas. It doubles as an event space for up to 50 people to gather to remember their loved one.
It’s definitely not a funeral home – the chic modern space could easily be mistaken for any other customer-facing professional office. Eslinger said that’s intentional.
The deceased are not stored or handled there either – all of that occurs at Einan’s headquarters in Richland.
So far, CODA has served 10 families.
Helping families cope with a loved ones’ death continues to be Einan’s focus.
“It’s the hardest job and the most challenging, but the most rewarding to help someone on their worst day,” Sowards said.
Part of the process is helping guide them through all the choices in front of them.
“There’s something like 70 decisions to make when somebody dies,” Sowards said. “Our job as funeral professionals is to help get families outside the tornado so they can think and create meaningful celebrations of life.”
She said people frequently want to skip over grief and push past tough times. Some tell their families they don’t want a fuss to be made when they go.
“We want to honor the wishes of the deceased, but we want to also take care of the needs of the survivors because they need to grieve,” Sowards said.
Sowards and Eslinger both emphasized the value of paying in advance for funeral services and the option to make payments over time, interest-free at Einan’s, CODA and Compassionate Cremation, so that both the deceased and their surviving family members can make arrangements that best satisfy their needs and wishes.
Though cemetery plots for cremated remains can be paid for after death, “unfortunately, in an immediate need situation, we aren’t able to offer payment plans,” for funeral arrangements, Sowards said.
Williams said that’s what she wants to do. “It was so stressful having to try to make those decisions and think of the costs. I don’t want to put my kids through that,” she said.
CODA Alternative Cremation and Funeral: 2909 S. Quillan St., Suite 104, Kennewick; 509-392-4644; codaalternative.com; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sundays. For a full explanation of Einan’s services, go to sunsetgardenstricities.com.
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