New Funeral Home Opens On Okeechobee Blvd. In Royal Palm Beach

Shama Rhoden, CEO of the new Lakeside Funeral Home, with her daughter Amadi.

With its opening in mid-October, Lakeside Funeral Home & Cremation Care on Okeechobee Blvd. became an additional funeral home in Royal Palm Beach available to serve the needs of the western communities.

Located in a redeveloped bank building that had been vacant for years, Lakeside has already handled four funerals in the last three weeks from its new location.

Lakeside’s roadside visibility is important to the owners, who recently received permission from the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission for a new sign at the 11347 Okeechobee Blvd. location.

“Part of the reason we picked this location is because we wanted to put our business and our sign in a location where cars will see it,” said Shama Rhoden, Lakeside’s CEO and a licensed funeral director. “We also chose our new location because, besides being a wide-open market, Royal Palm Beach is a melting pot. We serve all faiths, creeds, races, persuasions and exclude no one.”

The folks at the Hands On Learning Center, a busy preschool immediately adjacent to the funeral home, wondered about that. “The first thing we all thought of when we saw signs for a funeral home is, ‘Why here of all places?’” Assistant Director Mary Luz said.

Initial concerns evaporated with the uneventful staging of four funerals that went almost unnoticed by the children and parents.

“Not a single child has even noticed, no parents complained and now it has become a non-issue for us,” Claudia Widdick, director of Hands On Learning Center said. “Our biggest issue was the possibility of cremations on site, but we understand that is not permitted.”

Lauren McPherson of Royal Palm Beach’s Planning & Zoning Department confirmed that assessment. “With village approval of their sign and build-out permits, we have documented that no cremations will be allowed on site,” McPherson said.

While cremations take place at another location, it is still a service offered by Lakeside.

“About 50 percent of our business is cremations because it’s a cost-effective solution for grieving families, and it has become much more culturally acceptable in the last few decades,” Rhoden said.

She noted that the average funeral with a plot can cost about $10,000, while cremation starts at approximately $1,250.

Lakeside joins Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery and Palms West Funeral Home & Crematory as funeral locations in the area.

The only Catholic cemetery in the five-county diocese, Our Lady Queen of Peace is already the final resting place of about 10,000 people, with a major expansion slated for 2019 on its 52 acres along Southern Blvd.

Julian E. Almeida, general manager of Palms West Funeral Home, welcomes the competition.

“We are a family-owned business that has grown along with the western communities since 1996,” he said.

Palms West handled about 850 funerals last year and expects to do about the same this year. “We depend on repeat business,” he explained. “When we treat people right the first time they come here, we usually see them back.”

Both Palms West and Lakeside are family-owned funeral homes, while the national trend is toward corporate chains. Both Rhoden and Almeida point to the diversity of the western communities, where Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and various cultures all value different rituals.

There are differences between the two funeral homes, Almeida said.

“We cremate and embalm on site, which is not permitted at the other home,” he said. “This means that we can more easily meet time restrictions and other religious requirements, such as permitting Hindu and Buddhist patrons’ access to the crematoria for prayers and rituals.”

Both funeral homes and the AARP provide guidance to the general public on their web sites regarding choosing funeral services.

Consumer Reports recommends not being rushed into making expensive decisions. Depending upon cultural concerns, families usually have two to seven days to make arrangements.

Families can also review “How to Read a Funeral Home Price List” and other advice from the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit consumer protection organization. It is also suggested that people comparison shop among other funeral homes and online.

There are many third-party sources of coffins and other funeral products online. Many sites offer quick delivery. Alternatively, you can use online prices as a basis for price discussions with the funeral director.

“If you will take the time to make three to five phone calls, [it] can save you anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 or $4,000 for exactly the same thing,” said Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.