Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc. has purchased all remaining “pre-need” accounts of the now defunct Burton L. Hirsch Funeral Home.
Burton L. Hirsch, which was owned by the largest owner of funeral homes in the world, Service Corporation International (SCI), terminated its business after its Murray Avenue building was devastated by fire Jan. 10, 2009.
The day after the fire, Schugar’s contacted SCI in Houston to offer its assistance to Burton Hirsch’s clients, said David Ryave, vice president and business manager of Schugar’s.
“We contacted them right away to see if we could help serve the community,” Ryave said.
During the year that negotiations were ongoing, some of Burton Hirsch’s clients came to Schugar’s on their own, while others had their funeral needs met by Brandt Funeral Home in the North Hills, which is also owned by SCI, Ryave said.
Ryave said it took awhile to complete the negotiation for the purchase of the pre-need contracts because of complications caused by records destroyed in the fire.
Ryave said Schugar’s has recovered all of the financial information pertinent to the 80 pre-need Burton L. Hirsch contracts, but is missing some information regarding the details of the funeral arrangements and families’ requirements.
Schugar’s will be sending out a mailing to all the families whose contracts it has purchased in order to clarify those arrangements, according to Ryave.
“I think we will be able to accommodate every family’s wishes,” he said.
At the time of the Burton L. Hirsch fire, its business had already “shrunk,” according to Ryave, leaving Schugar’s with about a 75 to 80 percent market share of Jewish funerals in Pittsburgh.
Schugar’s has been serving the funeral needs of the area’s Jewish families since 1919, when it was located in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, then the heart of western Pennsylvania’s Jewish community. It relocated to Shadyside in 1937, and has been operated since the 1970s by three generations of the Ryave family.
“I think it is important that the community knows that we will be there to fill the vacuum left by Burton Hirsch,” Ryave said.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 687-1263.)