CROWN POINT — When a family suffers the loss of a loved one, sometimes a familiar shoulder to lean on can help ease the emotional trauma.
"It's very common that people in these situations look to someone they know, especially if there's already a connection," said Larry Geisen, president of Crown Point-based Geisen Funeral Homes. Familiarity can bring calmness to a family during a difficult time.
In Crown Point, a fixture in the city for 150 years has been Geisen Funeral Homes. The company, which was started by Larry Geisen's great-great-grandfather, Peter, began as a furniture business.
Geisen said in his great-great grandfather's time, funeral homes didn't exist but when someone experienced a death in the family, it was common practice to contact a local furniture-maker to request a coffin to be built.
Geisen said funerals at that time were hosted in the home of the deceased or an immediate family member. Whomever built the coffin also took care of the arrangements for the deceased.
"It really lead to the creation of a new industry," Geisen said. The Geisens' original furniture store was just off the square in downtown Crown Point.
The Geisens constructed their family home on East Street in 1876, which stood for many decades. In 1933, the Geisen family built their first stand-alone funeral home, which was considered groundbreaking at the time, Larry Geisen said.
Growing up in the business gave Larry Geisen firsthand experiences watching how his family worked with other families and how they brought comfort to them. Over time, the Geisens worked with many generations of families, establishing lasting relations.
"We've been in the community for so many years that when the time comes when someone needs our services, they know that they can trust us," Geisen said.
Geisen chose to follow his father, Robert, into the business, much like his son, Anthony, decided to continue the tradition.
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Geisen said his son worked with him the past two summers and respected the longevity and notoriety the business had in the Crown Point area.
"I'm very proud of my son and especially proud that he's looked at what other generations of our family have done with the business and that he's decided on his own that he wants to make his mark on the company," Geisen said.
As in other industries, it's important to innovate. Larry Geisen said his goal when he took over was to grow the business.
That led to acquiring other funeral homes around the Region. In 2004, Geisen added a location in Hebron; then in 2008, he purchased a facility from his cousin, Scott, in Merrillville.
In 2012, Geisen acquired Carlisle Funeral Home in Michigan City.
"I look at other funeral homes more like colleagues not competitors," Geisen said. He said in situations where independent funeral home operators had no heirs to continue the business, Geisen saw opportunities.
In 2007, Geisen and his wife, Kim, opened a new facility on Crown Point's east side on 113th Avenue just west of Interstate 65. The site also houses a banquet room, which can serve catered meals; a showroom that provides families an opportunity to look over casket options and other accessories; an on-site crematory; and pet loss center, which has its own crematory.
What will keep the business going another century will depend on the people in place, Geisen said. He encourages staff of 42 part-time and full-time workers to be active and involved in the community.
"It's important to be known in the community, because people need to know who you are," he said.