Wednesday, March 4, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Family funeral home business faces new challenges

Michael Blasberg will tell you he loves to talk. But in his job as a third-generation funeral director, he also recognizes the importance of listening.

“It’s a people business and I like people,” he said. “I don’t know if I ever thought about doing anything else.”

Blasberg is the funeral director at Levitt Weinstein Memorial Chapel & Cemeteries in Hollywood, Fla. It’s one of the company’s five locations.

Running a funeral home is a family affair for Blasberg. His grandfather opened a funeral home in Miami Beach in the 1950s, which he owned until it was sold upon his death in 1960.

His father Larrie opened another home in 1965. Blasberg and his brother Ira — who now works as a funeral director at the company’s location in Miami Beach — helped out at the business while they were growing up and eventually took more active roles in its management.

Plenty has changed in 50-something years. Caring for their clients, at a most difficult time, has always been top priority. That’s still the case today, no matter what the need.

Even when it comes to identity theft.

That’s a topic Blasberg’s grandfather probably never thought about. But in 2014, it’s a big issue in South Florida. The tri-county area is No. 1 in the nation in ID theft, with 340 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Even people who have just died are identity targets. So Blasberg and his company are doing something about it.

In order to combat the issue, Levitt Weinstein has been coordinating with the Broward Sheriff’s Office to offer seminars to families on how to cope with identity theft of deceased persons.

“We’re hoping to show families how to identify some red flags of identity theft, as well as how to cope with it if it happens to them,” Blasberg said.

Caring for people has been a family tradition, even when it came to their competition. Lending a hand is what they do. Back in the day, another nearby chapel — Rubin Zilbert — was owned by Murray Rubin and his father-in-law Lenny Zilbert.

“We were always friendly competitors,” Blasberg said. “But if Murray went out of town, I would fill in for him.”

During the 1990s, the Blasberg Chapel was merged with Rubin Zilbert Chapel. Today, both homes are owned by the Houston-based Northstar Memorial Group, and the former competitors still work alongside one another, Blasberg said.

Despite changes in ownership, what has remained constant is the business’ focus on the community.

“It’s always been a family business that we ran on our own,” he said. “I laugh with people, I cry with people. If I stopped crying, I might as well quit.”

He has no intention of quitting any time soon, but he has learned to change with the times.

The business faces competition from new sources. Nowadays, some websites allow customers to plan an entire funeral online. You can even buy a casket at superstores such as Costco.

It’s become more important to offer more personalized services and memorials than he did in the past, Blasberg said. He says such individual attention has been the key to attracting and maintaining customers at Levitt Weinstein.

“People are buying us,” he said. “There’s value to who you work with.”

Marc Rubin, area sales director for Levitt Weinstein, said a funeral homes’ ability to speak to clients in person allows them to remain competitive with the online vendors.

“We tell people, ‘Your loved one is not a product,’” he said. “You really need to come in and talk to the people you’re going to be doing business with.”

If clients want to, Levitt Weinstein allows them to design their own headstones, decorating them to represent their loved ones’ interests, ranging from golf to ballet dancing or their favorite sports team.

When clients pitch ideas, Blasberg said, “we don’t like to say no.”

Still, Levitt Weinstein has adapted to the Internet age, offering to create memorial websites for clients and live-stream funeral services online. Its also seen an uptick in pre-planned funerals, which allow people to personally plan their own funerals and pre-purchase them at their current cost.

“It really benefits the families,” Blasberg said. “It’s not easy to make decisions at the worst time of your life.”

The dying part is never easy. Even after decades in the business, “you don’t get used to it,” he said.

“But when you look over letters and testimonials, it makes you realize why you do what you do,” he said.

Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
County honors Meadows Trigueiro as Woman of the Year

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Police shut down Fairfield street after shooting

By Glen Faison | From Page: A1, 8 Comments | Gallery

 
Celebrity chef motivates Armijo students

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
State schedules work on Highway 12

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
Bridge work to shut down Highway 12 east of Rio Vista

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

Highway 12 Association to meet this month

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
Caltrans reschedules work on J-Mack Ferry

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
 
 
Robots, raucous businessmen set to arrive on big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Teen hit by SUV remains in hospital

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

College looks at Measure Q project changes

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A9

 
 
 
Fairfield police log: March 2, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Fairfield police log: March 1, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Feb. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun police log: March 2, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: March 1, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Feb. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Enrollment of non-residents to be capped at some UC campuses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

US / World

California survey finds Sierra snowpack far below normal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
California shuts down oil wells to protect ground water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ex-CIA chief admits sharing military secrets with mistress

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
Health officials perplexed by vaccination skeptics

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

Lawmakers taking another crack at expanding gun checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
California lawmakers show wide discrepancy in missed votes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Agents target industry helping Chinese women have US babies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
Family of girl declared brain-dead sues Oakland hospital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

US marshals say man killed by Los Angeles police was wanted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
72 passengers reach settlements in Asiana crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Netanyahu warns US ‘bad deal’ would put Iran on nuclear path

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Mines, bombs slow Iraqi advance on Islamic State-held Tikrit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
India orders TV stations not to give rapist a platform

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

Opinion

Israelis worry about inequality, not Iran

By Daniel Gordis | From Page: A11, 3 Comments

 
Editorial cartoon: March 3-4, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Minority outreach that works

By Jennifer Rubin | From Page: A11, 3 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: March 4, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: March 4, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Mushrooms are nutrient-packed, with a deep, savory flavor

By The Washington Post | From Page: B5

 
Get ready to add white to the rainbow of produce you eat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: March 4, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

My husband and I want different things in our retirement

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

Apollo to celebrate Holiday birthday

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Oprah’s Chicago studios to close down

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Fashion week moves Milan to Paris

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

.

Sports

Bumgarner hit hard in spring debut, A’s beat Giants 9-4

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
 
Vanden girls roll, advance to SJS championship game

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1

Cal senior Reshanda Gray named Pac-12 Player of the Year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rudy Gay, Kings hand Knicks worst loss of season, 124-86

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cubs’ scramble on Wrigley Field hits bump when mayor balks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Raiders officially release S Tyvon Branch

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Trooper: Fingerprints show victim in Hernandez’s rented car

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Play ball! Quickly! Baseball tries to speed game this spring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Australian rugby star Hayne signs 3-year deal with 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Maid: Hernandez messed with security camera after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Pacquiao big hit so far in Vegas sports books vs Mayweather

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Kings bring back former player Divac in front-office role

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
No ‘floating rubbish’ collection for Olympic sailing venue

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Oil glut could soon lead to plummeting prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
.

Obituaries

Otto Vasak

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
John Henry Fechter, Jr.

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Jacqueline Mendes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Robert C. Thierry

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Garland (Curly) Henry Tackett

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7