Small Businesses: Three Generations of Funeral Service

Minot, N.D. - One in every 400 adults in North Dakota becomes an entrepreneur in a given month.

That's according to the Kauffman Index, which reports on business startups all over the United States.

Last week we showed you one of the region's newest startups - a children's toy and book store in northwest Minot.

But what was it like to start a small business nearly a century ago?

Tim Olson reports.

(Tim Olson, KX News) It's a story that starts with a setback.

Ben Thomas was a veterinarian before he left for France to serve his country in World War I. But by the time he had returned...

(Brad Thomas, Thomas Family Funeral Home) "Veterinary medicine had changed."

(Olson) ...Ben was out of a job. So he made a change - went back to school - and entered the world of funeral service in 1926.

(Thomas) "Almost sight unseen, he bought an existing funeral home - the Van Fleet Undertaking Company - and started in business."

(Olson) That's how Brad Thomas, Ben's grandson, tells it.

Brad and his brother Bryan are the third generation of Thomases to own and operate Thomas Family Funeral Home in Minot - where even today, a local family's story is being told.

(Thomas) "We've served families for two or three or four generations, and they're telling me about experiences with my dad or my grandpa."

(Olson) Grandpa Ben bartered his way through the Great Depression...

(Thomas) "Rumor has it that he took payment in eggs and milk."

(Olson) ...And in 1955, Brad's father John took over - with help from the kids.

(Thomas) "Before going to school I'd get to run the snow blower."

(Olson) The baton was passed to Brad and Bryan in 1995.

So how do you make a business thrive for 90 years and counting?

Brad says it's simple: embrace your community.

(Thomas) "Minot is small enough so you're doing business with your friends and your neighbors and your acquaintances. I used to think, 'Oh hey, I want to own this big huge business' but I'm very thankful that we get personally acquainted with the families that we serve."

(Olson) And so the story of the Thomas family is still being written.

In Minot, Tim Olson, KX News.

Brad says his advice to new startups in the area is this: don't be afraid to be different, and show care for your customers.


More Stories

Don't Miss

Trending Stories

Latest News

Video Center