MAYS LANDING — Keith Boakes, the son of Elbert Boakes, may have never been introduced to the mortuary business if Inglesby & Sons Funeral Home in Camden County did not help his father, a former employee, branch out on his own in 1962 and establish the Boakes Funeral Home.
Keith Boakes, current manager of the Boakes Funeral Home, paid forward the kindness shown to his father recently by helping Jason S. Goldstein start his own business, J.S. Goldstein Funeral Home & Monuments.
The men entered into a joint venture in August. Their two separate funeral businesses share the same building on Main Street, which is rare in South Jersey.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity rather than him taking on this giant overwhelming debt. Come and work here. Get yourself established. Get started. Build a base of people, a reputation, which he already does have. Once you are established and once you feel comfortable, then you can start your own,” Boakes said.
Funeral businesses sharing a building is something seen in the parts of New Jersey closest to New York City, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
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“You may occasionally hear of a funeral director that offers specialty services (e.g. green funerals) operating out of an office in an established funeral outside of this area, but it’s not something that’s common throughout the U.S.,” said a National Funeral Directors Association spokesperson.
Two or three funeral homes sharing one building is common in Central and North Jersey because of the cost of real estate, said George Kelder, CEO of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association.
“This has to be one of the first. This is unusual in South Jersey,” Kelder said. “They will each have their own pricing, but they will be working off the common expenses.”
Goldstein is a fourth-generation funeral director who ran his family’s business, Roth-Goldsteins’ Memorial Chapel LLC in Atlantic City, for many years.
After at least three years as manager with 10 partners, Goldstein felt it was time to branch out on his own and take the Jewish funeral, the culture he serves, to the next level.
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Goldstein attended mortuary school with Heather M. Maderia, Boakes’ funeral director. Boakes said the two businesses sharing the same building has been a great thing, and the businesses complement each other.
“We are both here for the same reason, to serve our people and serve the community,” Boakes said.
For Goldstein, the mainland location in the center of the county is ideal because he is close to the Rodef Sholom and Beth Kehillah cemeteries, both in Egg Harbor Township, and the Vineland Hebrew Cemetery.
The building was already large enough to accommodate both businesses, so it did not have to be renovated, but Boakes had already planned technology upgrades for his business.
For Jewish funerals, most of the activity is either at the synagogue or at the gravesite. Goldstein said he does meet with families at the funeral home to make arrangements, and sometimes, there are private services.
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Goldstein is in business by himself, but Boakes shares his six employees with Goldstein. They also share vehicles, the parlor, the arrangement room and the chapel where a cross, crucifix or a six-pointed Star of David can be put on a wall depending on what is needed.
“During these times, don’t look at other businesses as competitors,” Boakes said. “You’ve got to help the mom-and-pop shops right now. They are disappearing so fast.”