Winners of the 2021 B Read more [...]
Funeral Directors Category: South East England
Winners of the 2021 Buckinghamshire Business Awards for Excellence in Customer Service, J Brown Funeral services is owned and run by Jason Brown – the man himself, together with his wife Ana. This is a true family owned and run business, created in 2017, some 25 years after Jason first began work for his former father-in-law in his family funeral directing business in Middlesex.
Step in through the door of the first premises in Woodside Road in Amersham, and it will be Jason who greets you. Open the door to their second branch, in Wendover, and it will be Ana you find waiting to welcome you. If you call in the middle of the night if someone dies and needs to be taken into the care of a funeral director, it will be Jason who arrives shortly afterwards.
He’s the one who will care for the person who died until the funeral date, and, on the day of the funeral, it’s Jason who will double check every detail, lift the coffin into the hearse and be there for you throughout the funeral until the ceremony is completed.
This absolute personal involvement with each family and funeral is what makes this company special. Unlike the other funeral businesses in the towns, J Brown Funeral Services is owned, run and staffed by the people who own it and whose name is above the door, the people whose reputation is on the line every time they undertake the task of helping a family organise a funeral for someone.
The need to have this personal involvement is what motivated Jason to start his own business. When he had started working as a driver-bearer in the family firm as a young man, he had the good luck to be working for someone who ran his business in the old-fashioned way of everyone involved being able to do everything. Jason progressed from driving and polishing the cars to meeting families, making funeral arrangements and conducting funerals, and gathered experience in every aspect of the work. You could say he learned his craft in a way that no training course could ever provide, learning from old hands who had been working in funerals for years.
This doesn’t mean Jason is stuck in the past, not at all – he’s a progressive, thoughtful and creative funeral director, but one with the grounding of learning his trade through years of experience, and through watching and learning from the many other funeral directors he’s encountered over time.
In 2003, Jason became a partner in the company he worked for, and took over conducting all the funerals that were carried out, as well as the day to day running of the business. The company was sold in 2015, and Jason stayed on for a brief period as an employee of the new owners; a much larger affair with very different practices and standards than those he had been used to.
His new role still covered the areas he used to work in, but he was based in the head office, and no longer had any dealings with funeral arrangements, and didn’t meet families until the day of the funeral. This was completely alien to Jason, and it wasn’t long before he decided to leave and look for somewhere to start again, somewhere where ‘I could do things the way I wanted, and provide the service bereaved families deserve.’ It took quite a while to find premises that Jason felt would be right, but the property in Amersham caught his eye and he made the decision to invest in his own funeral company in the town.
After a fair amount of hard work putting up walls and decorating and getting things the way he wanted them to be, the new, independent family funeral directors serving the people of Amersham and the surrounding areas opened for business in August 2017. Jason had modest hopes for the first year of trading, but his expectations were exceeded, proving his instincts to have been right. In 2021, the couple opened their second branch in Wendover, and within a few weeks, several families had already entrusted their funeral arrangements to Ana and Jason.
Ana has a background in hospitality and event management, and until 2020 she was working teaching others the skills and subtleties involved in this area – skills that are superbly suited to helping clients organise funerals. She brings fresh eyes and complementary abilities to Jason’s impeccable pedigree in funerals, and looks after the company’s social media, radio interviews and general awareness raising in the area. She absolutely loves her role, and the ability she has to help guide people towards a meaningful, transformational experience with their funeral. She continues to grow and learn in other areas too – when we visited in 2021, she had begun learning Russian, a long held ambition of hers.
Maybe it’s the fact the company is independently owned that draws people to them when they need a funeral director – or maybe it’s Jason and Ana themselves ,whose open, friendly and quiet manner is instantly reassuring, and whose meticulous attention to detail means that every funeral they look after is carried out as well as it could possibly be. It might be the years of experience Jason has had that instils confidence instantly. Or it might be the strong commitment the couple have to their community, to supporting local small traders, their ethos and way of being that is getting has established the company so quickly.
No matter the reason, J Brown Funeral Services’ reputation is growing rapidly as a quality funeral director that offers completely personal service, and who can tailor that service to suit whatever you want or need. The flexibility of a funeral director who owns and runs his or her own business is one of the things that the large chains and corporately run companies just cannot compete with, and it is this flexibility and willingness to adapt to each family’s preferences that makes this small, independent funeral directors company stand out.
The premises in Amersham are small at the front, but go back a long way. The main door opens into a pleasant reception area. Beyond the rear wall, a small room where you can spend time with the person who has died is to the right, leading on to a larger area with a second desk to one side. The kitchen is at the rear on the right, while to the left secure doors lead to the newly created mortuary area with refrigeration and facilities for washing and dressing people, and there is private rear access. Everywhere is spotlessly clean and tidy.
In Wendover, the newer branch is located directly opposite the War Memorial in the High Street. The large windows offer an opportunity for Ana’s skills decorating the window displays to be demonstrated, and mean that the reception area is light and bright, and visible from outside. There is a small, private, family room that can be used either to discuss funeral arrangements, or to have space and privacy if a family is spending time with their person in the chapel of rest, which is just beyond. Through a second door from the family room there is access to a small kitchen area and loo.
Personal attention. It might sound like a cliché, but this is exactly what you receive from Jason and Ana. From start to finish, you can be confident that the couple will be involved with every aspect of a funeral. When Jason is out on a funeral or visiting a family, it will only be a trusted member of his family who stands in for him – either his wife, Ana or his father might be found in Jason’s place at Amersham, but you can be sure that they have the same commitment to serving families as Jason does, and every detail shared with them will be passed on to Jason directly he is free.
Jason’s style is traditional, he wears a black suit in the office and a tail coat or frock coat when conducting funerals.
Finding suitable venues for families to hold funeral ceremonies is something that Jason finds really rewarding, and the walls behind his desk show photos of some of the unusual funerals he has been involved with, including one of an escort of Star Wars Stormtroopers accompanying a gentleman’s final journey, and another with a beribboned VW camper van as a hearse.
At Wendover, as well as photos of the dogs, in pride of place behind her desk Ana has the certificate showing that she has been trained in suicide awareness, something she rightly feels essential to anyone working in her position.
Listening to you and understanding what you want him to help you achieve. Jason doesn’t bring any assumptions, what he does is work out how you can get what you need, make suggestions if he thinks there’s something that might work for you, and then make whatever you decide on happen. Ana has exactly the same approach
Being part of the local community and actively involved in what’s going on in both Amersham and Wendover is fundamentally important to both Jason and Ana, whether it’s joining in the litter picking or local community tree planting, raising money for local charities by taking part in sponsored walks or runs, organising a Hallowe’en trail, running raffles and art competitions, talking on local radio – or simply shopping locally and promoting local traders. They do all of this because they truly believe that a funeral director serves their community and should be immersed in everything going on around them. A glance at their Facebook page shows how busy and active they are – and how much they are appreciated locally.
When we first visited in 2017, it was the very gorgeous little 1962 Ford Anglia van that sits on the forecourt outside Jason’s premises that caught our eye – Jason loves classic cars, and, in his words has “spent far too much money on the Anglias, Escorts and Cortinas I’ve had in the past!”
On our return, it was clear that the company has quickly matured into a really established and high quality service. It is quite unlike all the other funeral directors in the area, there’s a natural warmth and welcome, which is exemplified by the presence of one of the couple’s four dogs who come to work with them. Maggie, their Boxer, accompanies Jason to Amersham where she has been trained to wait until visitors approach her before saying hello. At Wendover, you might encounter another Jason, their little ShihTzu, Steve, their Pekingese or Henry, their German Short Haired Pointer keeping Ana company – they take it in turns to some to work with her.
Classic car aside and adorable dogs beside, what stands out about J Brown Funeral Services is the genuine niceness of the owners. Jason is a lovely, unassuming man who is impeccably smart, incredibly thoughtful and really, really nice, and his beautiful wife Ana shares all of his best qualities.
- Your first call will be answered by Jason or Ana. If they happen to be taking a rare week’s holiday, you might speak to a trusted colleague who is looking after their company, but otherwise you’ll get one of them.
- Home visits – yes, or workplace visits if preferred – whatever is more convenient for you.
- Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes, absolutely, if you want this – Jason has a female colleague he can call in if required.
- Embalming? This can be organised this if necessary and if you agree to it. Embalming would be carried out by the same lady who carries out the less intrusive routine care of the people looked after by the company.
- Ethnic specialism? The demographics in Amersham and Wendover mean that there are fewer opportunities to serve different communities or cultures, but Jason’s experience in the past in North London means he is adept in helping with any specific requirements.
- Home arranged funerals? Absolutely if this is what you are planning. You will be offered expert guidance and advice from people who know what they are talking about.
- Local celebrants There are a few trusted celebrants that Jason and Ana work closely with. They believe celebrants need to show the same level of care and compassion as a funeral director.
- Vehicles: Jaguar funeral vehicles and a VW Transporter ambulance. The little Ford Anglia van is a familiar sight at local classic car gatherings.
- Website: Nice website, straightforward information, opens and transparent.
- Client support: Throughout your contact with J Brown Funeral Services Jason will be your contact and support at Amersham, while Ana will be your main support if you use the Wendover branch.
- Money matters: Fair prices for a bespoke service. Prices online, and clearly explained.
- Parking: At Amersham there are parking spaces on the forecourt outside and ample parking nearby, at Wendover you may be able to park right outside the branch, but if not there are public car parks within easy walking distance, at the library and the cricket club, and on street parking just a few minutes away.
We were delighted to be invited to visit Jason at his Amersham soon after they opened there, and again to go an visit the Wendover branch when it had been open for just a few weeks and to have a chance to talk about his journey so far. The people of Amersham and the surrounding areas deserve to have an alternative to the funeral companies owned by large chains (which were the only previous option), and Jason with his experienced background and forward looking attitude is just the right person to offer this. We wish him all the best in his new business and look forward to watching his progress.