Many funeral homes, such as our own, are generationally owned. My great-great-grandfather, Ernest Pray (longtime Eaton County Clerk) and his son, my great-grandfather, Myron Pray, started our funeral home in 1923. The two of them had worked together at Pray & Co. Furniture Store downtown Charlotte, where the Painless Dentistry is currently located. The opportunity to expand the family business into funeral service came when another funeral home in the area was deciding whether to close or sell. They chose to sell, and they chose my family to buy.
For another 25 years, our family operated both the furniture store downtown, and the funeral business out of 405 W. Seminary, where Joe Pray Sr., my grandfather, currently lives. In 1949, they built the existing funeral home on Seminary St. and closed the furniture store downtown. It was then my grandfather, Joseph Pray took the helm, later passing it to my father, Joey Pray. My dad and I work side by side to this day, and have many plans for the future of our firm.
Nationally, 89.2% of the 22,000+ funeral homes are privately owned, either by generational families like ours, or by independent entrepreneurs starting their own way in the profession. The remaining 10.8% are owned by publicly traded corporations. The largest of these corporations are based in Texas or Florida, and they own hundreds or even thousands of funeral homes across many states. Corporate firms tend to populate in larger metropolitan areas, and the funeral directors and staff on site are employees of the larger machine. Smaller firms, like ours and many family-owned funeral homes in the area, are typically owned, operated, and managed by people active in the community. Our family, for one, is proud to serve Charlotte across five generations and counting.