Most people aren’t dying to get in, but when you walk by 722 Main St. downtown and look in the showroom window, you’re going to see something you don’t see everyday: Caskets for sale.
“Initially, I was going to have a wall here in front and have a showroom in the back where people could see them,” says Eric Lusain, owner of Main St. Casket and also owner of the building his store occupies, “but someone said no – you need to put them in the window so when people see them, they’ll remember.”
Lusain also wants you to remember the price of his discounted caskets. You can save up to 80% over most funeral homes.
“Nowadays with things being as tight as they are, people are thinking twice,” he says.
Lusain discovered the high cost of dying last year in Indianapolis.
“Back in September, we had a loved one who passed. We were responsible for the burial and we had to pay out-of-pocket,” Lusain says. “I never buried anybody before and we got sticker shock. I had no idea that it would cost that much.”
“I tried to figure out ways to shave the price down,” Lusain continues. “I remembered some movie where an old lady in Costco has a casket in her cart and she’s pushing it through the store. They made a funny out of it, but it stuck in my head.”
Lusain went online, researched Costco and saw they sold caskets, but they had to be shipped. Lusain didn’t want to pay money without seeing the casket first.
He did a Google search and found a casket store in Indianapolis which had the same casket he wanted for his loved one, but was $1,300 cheaper than the funeral home.
Lusain started researching the Federal Trade Commission laws on the selling of caskets which lead to him opening up a similar store in Cincinnati.
“The FTC had to start regulating the business because funeral homes were price-fixing, them along with the casket companies,” Lusain says. “People can buy their caskets somewhere else, the register book somewhere else and also the flowers. People think you have to get them from the funeral home. You don’t.”
This FTC regulation as became known as the “Funeral Rule.” Mandated in 1982, most funeral directors don’t educate their customers on the subject, but some consumers are catching on.
“I’ve had one funeral home call me and say why are you taking money out of my pocket?” Lusain says.
His casket store has only been open for a few weeks. Lusain had to wait for one of his tenants, a clothing retailer, to move out before opening up.
“Before the store opened, we were warehousing them (caskets) in the back,” he says. “People would pull up in the alley and take a look at them. We were selling them back there. It just didn’t feel right.”
Besides his store, Lusain also sells caskets at his website, MainStCaskets.com. He says business is good. His most popular mover is the Neapolitan Blue.
The Neapolitan has a navy blue finish with light blue velvet interior in a French fold design. This casket, which also features an eternal rest adjustable bed, goes for $1,099 on Main Street. At a funeral home, you’ll pay at least $3,050.
Another fast moving casket is the Going Home Blue with a light blue crepe interior. At a funeral home, you’ll pay on average $2,635. On Main Street downtown, it’s yours for $999. Most of Lusain’s caskets are imported.
“What a lot of people don’t know is some big casket companies that are domestic are now made in Mexico,” he says. “There’s not a lot that’s truly domestic these days.”
Most of Lusain’s caskets start at $999 which includes delivery to the funeral home. If you need to go cheaper, he’s also got $500 boxes too – or even less.
“Funeral homes carry them,” Lusain says, “but they won’t tell you unless you ask.”
Besides caskets for humans, Lusain also offers pet caskets that start at $199. If cremation is your thing, you can pick up an urn for $135. You also don’t have to have a dead body to get yourself a casket.
“Its merchandise,” Lusain states. “It’s not against the law.”
“A guy had cash, his own truck, came in, got the casket and we’re wheeling it down the street, sticking it in his truck,” Lusain says. “The guy actually had a 1961 hearse he was restoring and he wanted to put a casket in it.”
This is the exception rather than the rule. Most of Lusain’s customers have lost loved ones but he says he doesn’t see a lot of tears in his store.
“When families come in here, they’re not grieving,” he says. “They’re excited. They’re saving at least two grand.”
(Photos by Larry Gross)