Ryder Funeral Home in South Hadley was closed abruptly by the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation on May 28 after an inspection revealed significant problems. The license of the funeral director, William Ryder, was immediately suspended. Other local funeral directors have stepped in to help wind down the business and to assist families whose loved ones had unfortunately been left in limbo by the dysfunction at Ryder. According to reports in local newspapers, the funeral home is likely to be sold. See stories and comments on MassLive.com. The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation asks anyone with questions about Ryder or the funeral industry to call their consumer hotline: 617-973-8787 or 888-283-3757.
For consumers, it is good news that a state regulatory body is able to halt operation of a funeral home that no longer provides quality services. For a well-known family-owned funeral business that had served the public for 53 years, it is a very sad end.
Stepping back to look at the big picture (as I just did at a conference in Minnesota this weekend), it becomes clear that the funeral industry is in a period of significant stress and change. New England, especially, is saturated with large old-fashioned funeral homes that are expensive to maintain and operate. New methods and models are on the horizon, and it is challenging for these older establishments to adapt. Consumers are learning about, and sometimes choosing, other options, such as home funerals. The culture is changing.
This weekend I met several young funeral directors who are working to change the industry. One young couple established a low-cost store-front office; their business is booming (over 500 funerals last year), so they are able to keep prices low for the consumer.
Note: the calculations reported in my April 19 blog entry (Supply & Demand) were based on 250 funerals per year per funeral home. At that "fulltime" rate, Massachusetts would need only 210 funeral homes to match the number of deaths per year. But the state had 519 funeral homes as of 2013.
In the coming months we will complete our 2014 survey of local funeral homes and update this website to remove from our directory Ryder and others that have closed since our last survey (e.g., Hobert FH in Holyoke; Childs FH in Haydenville).
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog"
are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect
the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.