By Lori Lindner
SOLON– Solon residents are familiar with Brosh Funeral Services, a local business that has been serving the Solon community and surrounding area since founded by Frank and Anna Brosh in 1885.
Over time, Brosh expanded to not only provide caring and complete funeral services, but also included a chapel and community facility to offer full customer service for variety of celebrations and special events. More recently, the business has undergone some subtle changes that may not be as obvious, but can have a big impact on those special and sacred memories that last a lifetime.
As Brosh Funeral Services was down through four generations, it was Terry and Christine Brosh who constructed the building at 100 S. Cedar St. in 2003, with an upper level that houses a comfortable lobby and welcoming fireplace in addition to the chapel itself, and a lower level with a restaurant-equipped kitchen, tables, seating and space for large parties. Matt Linn joined Christine and Terry in 2004, and bought the entire operation in 2008. While the Brosh family is no longer part of the 128-year-old business, Linn decided to keep the Brosh name because it was well-established and familiar.
However, Linn did initiate changes to the Brosh Chapel locations in both Cedar Rapids and Solon. In 2010, Linn created the Avacentre in Cedar Rapids, and last year brought the Avacentre to Solon as well, specifically for celebration of life events, everything from baby showers to graduations, wedding receptions to anniversary parties.
“It’s a unique venture inside a facility with services similar to those a non-denominational church would provide,” Linn said. “It’s different now in that we as Brosh Chapel and the Avacentre can provide full catering and our own bar, so we are able to give complete service all the way through.”
Clients are able to simply rent the space, but there are a different levels of services people can choose to purchase or not, as well as the assistance of a professional crew who are able to attend to the details.
“Our role has changed in that we are no longer just funeral directors, but we have become a full-service planning staff,” Linn said. His focus is to arrange celebrations of life. What he doesn’t coordinate himself, such as weddings, he has staff on hand to do so.
“We call ourselves celebration event planners,” Linn said “There are so many people who don’t want just a funeral; they want something different. They want the life to be remembered, more than the sad event a funeral used to be.”
In that way, the Avacentre is better able to accommodate changing needs of a new generation.
“I think back to when the Broshes started the community center, and it was a good start toward providing more services. We could have the funeral, and then have the funeral dinner in the same location. In the 10 years since, there has been an increase in baby boomers and their desire to have something more like a celebration. It may mean different types of music, or food, maybe wine and cheese, a memory video or other things that are more reflective of them than what their grandma had,” said Linn. “People don’t use the term ‘funeral’ very often anymore.”
Mike Hanes is licensed funeral director who represents and takes care of the Solon community. He has been with Brosh Funeral Services since 2012, and he is also seeing new trends in memorial observances.
“People are asking for more relaxed and casual atmosphere, maybe have hors d’oeuvres and wine or other refreshments. People might not want to stand in line, shake everyone’s hands for a minute and hear the same thing over and over. They may want to stand in small groups and share stories of their loved ones. People are much more comfortable with doing something like that, and don’t feel that it is disrespectful to the deceased,” said Hanes.
That’s not to say everything has changed, nor everyone’s requests. Hanes’ intent is to understand each family’s or loved one’s individual preferences, and provide a service that fulfills them.
“I do think it is important to view the body, if they want to, as a part of saying goodbye, and we accommodate those who do want a traditional service and burial,” Hanes said. “But I think it’s also healthy to talk about the good memories, laugh and share stories, because you are also celebrating that person’s life.”
Also involved in celebrating life events is Connie Goldsmith, who is in charge of the Avacentre, its food and its functions. Goldsmith said there are many features of the Avacentre that makes it a somewhat unique venue.
“We have indoor and outdoor capability,” she said. “If someone plans an outdoor event and it rains, we have the indoor backup right on site, even at the last minute. We have unlimited outside seating and room for tents.” June weddings tend to have more than 300 guests, and the Avacentre can accommodate them all.
Goldsmith is equipped to accommodate a range of tastes as well, particularly at the table.
“All our food is all made from scratch. We don’t use processed meat or other foods. We cook everything on site, with staff who have a lot of kitchen experience, Goldsmith said. She does off-site catering too, and the Avacentre’s tables and chairs can be rented for off-site events as well.
Another convenience is wedding parties and other groups can lovely backdrops for perfect photographs, such as the pond out back, the old the Catholic church next door, and the tall wild grasses growing just across the street.
Perhaps most importantly, Goldsmith said the Avacentre is an affordable alternative.
“Price-wise, I always tell my brides we are right in the middle of the Mariott and the American Legion,” she said. Decorations are available for people to use. Linens, tableware and glassware are all included in the prices, made known up front.
“There aren’t any surprises. When you book with us, you know exactly what it’s going to cost from the moment we detail,” said Godsmith. Set up, decorating and clean up by the Avacentre staff are also included in the cost, if the client chooses. “At the end of the night, whatever you brought is put on a table and you are out of here in five minutes.”
The space and catering services are available for corporate events, business and company meetings, class reunions, birthday parties, anniversaries, baby showers, lots of graduations, and of course, weddings and receptions.
As a community contribution, Goldsmith caters or hosts meals for Solon High School sports teams. For a small fee per person, the team can come to the Avacentre and eat before or after their sporting events. “It’s very reasonable. The charge covers the cost, parents come and help, and it’s a way to give back to the community,” said Goldsmith.
In many ways, the Avacentre has become a destination center.
“We now provide more universal services, as opposed to just a funeral home, meeting center or community room,” said Linn. “With this facility, we are able to move into the future.”