Like the Fisher-Diaz Funeral Home on HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” Am Israel Mortuary in San Diego is a family-run business. But the Krantz family operates its family business without the made-for-TV drama in HBO’s acclaimed original series.
The Krantz family, now in its third generation of funeral home management, is in the business of helping individuals and families during one of life’s most-difficult times.
Having grown up around Am Israel Mortuary, the first and only Jewish funeral home in San Diego, Peter Krantz never felt that there was anything “spooky” about the family business. The only thing that felt different about growing up around the mortuary business is that, when the phone rang, “We knew that dad could have to leave at any time,” said Peter Krantz, who took over as manager in 1991.
Peter’s father, Larry, owner and CEO of Am Israel Mortuary, still works in the business that was founded by his father, Irving, in 1977. Peter’s brother-in-law, Vince Storniolo, is Am Israel’s funeral consultant, pre-need specialist and licensed insurance writer.
“I was also fortunate enough to work both with my grandfather and my father at the same time,” Peter Krantz said, referencing an overlap when his grandfather was semi-retired. “Parents always hold kids to higher standards than non-family,” he added, sharing a challenge he faced in working with his father and grandfather.
But beyond family dynamics, the funeral home business isn’t for everybody. Am Israel Mortuary focuses on honoring traditions and religious rituals while providing top-notch care and compassion amid difficult circumstances and a stressful process.
One recurring challenge, according to Krantz, is helping families of an individual who didn’t have his or her final instructions on paper with a mortuary. Some still have to choose a burial plot. That leaves a lot of decisions for a family at an already difficult time.
“It’s sometimes hard not to carry that home with you,” he said.
Am Israel Mortuary handles about 180 burials every year. The cost of a funeral has quadrupled over the last 30 years, Peter Krantz said.
The funeral home business has evolved as corporations have bought up family operations. But that has actually been good for Am Israel, Krantz said.
“The level of service that a family-run funeral home provides is far beyond what a corporation provides. You call here at 9 in the morning, and you’ll get one of our family. You can call at 10 at night, and you’ll get one of our family. You can call at 3 in the morning, and you’ll get one of our family, and you’ll be with one of us the whole way through,” he said. “We’ll walk you through everything. At a corporate place, you have a cemetery representative, and a mortuary representative, and they go home at 5 p.m. and may be unreachable.”
There are, however, other challenges inherent in running a family business.
“Holidays and weekends – it doesn’t matter. We never close. Someone always has to work,” Krantz said. “Some families go on a vacation together, or the grandparents take everyone on a cruise. That’s not an option for us.”
A family-run funeral home business operates 365 days a year and 24 hours a day.
“Death knows no time,” Krantz said.
“Our main goal is to help people in their most difficult time. Help comes before anything else. Everyone mourns differently, and you have to be able to read that from the beginning. It is going to be a sad/difficult time. I can't make it better, but I can make it easier.”