HUDSON — A part of Hudson since 1985, O’Connell Family Funeral Home is bringing a new look to its building on 11th Street, with a focus on evolving trends.
The industry is constantly changing, funeral director Mike O’Connell said, and they want to keep up with the wants and needs of the consumer. Trends show consumers want more warmth and a homey feel, he said, and aren’t as focused on tradition.
One change comes to how families make arrangement selections such as caskets. The funeral home used to have a room to showcase the caskets, but has now switched to showing them on a large computer screen.
“The looks on the face of the consumer walking in there was complete terror,” O’Connell said. “We wanted to create a different feel for families when they’re making arrangements or selections.”
The design is focused on bringing nature into the building,, to harness the calming power of it. said Sarah Olsen, owner of interior design company Merriment.
“People gravitate towards that, especially during times of grief or a crisis,” Olsen said.
The design uses a natural palette of greens and earth tones with water imagery. The spaces will have a comfortable flow, natural lighting, comfortable seating and beverage centers, all designed around accommodating the families.
“Making it easier for families to come in and put everything together,” interior designer Sam Wittich said.
This was the first time Olsen and Wittich have worked on a funeral home design.
“We learned a lot,” Olsen said.
The remodel is set to be completed in June.
A similar remodel was done at the River Falls site.
With the new design comes a new furry face. Finnegan has joined the funeral home as a grief therapy dog.
“Grief therapy dogs are a very positive change in our industry,” O'Connell said.
Finnegan can help soften the experience, especially for children.
“It’s not to take away the grief, it’s not to take away their pain,” O’Connell said, but it is a distraction that can put a smile on their face.
The remodel comes as the funeral home industry faces changes due to COVID-19, with gatherings restricted.
“I always knew what we did was important,” O’Connell said. “When you can’t do what you normally do, it’s horrible.”
Even when the stay-at-home order lifts, gatherings will still be limited, O'Connell said.
“It’s going to be a change for quite some time,” he said.
O’Connell has been doing webinars to learn about different options.
“I’ve never sat still when it comes to training,” he said.
The funeral home has hosted services on Facebook Live and streamed through Zoom. O'Connell is also setting up for drive-by visitations.
He tells his staff to think if it was their own family, what would they try to do.
“We’re really scratching our heads and constantly, constantly trying to learn and think of different ways we can help these families,” he said.