The Talk; The new high-tech Bay Gardens Funeral Home caters to every whim
August 12, 2008
The Hamilton Spectator(Aug 12, 2008)
No one, absolutely no one The Talk asked would accompany the hat and me to one of the events of the summer -- last Thursday night's opening of the Bay Gardens Funeral Home on the east Mountain. The first Bay Gardens opened three years ago across from the Royal Botanical Gardens.
"But dahlings," I said, "this isn't the kind of funeral home you think it is. This is a new-age funeral home where caterers turn out gourmet meals from well-equipped kitchens, serve wines and champagne or wings and beer. It's a place where people go out in style with the latest technology -- enhanced audio-video equipment, home theatre systems in viewing rooms, soundproof doors, plasma screen TVs -- even a gift shop."
You can depart green at the Bay 2, as The Talk calls it, in recycled fibre coffins.
"Dahlings," The Talk told them, "old-style funeral homes are so over."
Laura Markey, creative and marketing director of Bay 2, almost shuddered when the term new age funeral home was used in an interview. She said it's not a "new kind" of funeral home -- it's all about expectations.
Laura says baby boomers have raised the bar in terms of expectations. "They expect the unexpected to begin with."
White limo buses ferried some of the 800 guests to the front entrance for the party that was like the opening of a club, filmfest or fashion show.
Outside, the funeral home looks like one of those expensive piles in Florida that are often advertised in American design magazines. The entrance, with an impressive two-storey water wall, looks like an executive club or lobby of a boutique hotel.
It's big -- 22,000 square feet but not all that space is devoted to the departed. Jan Nichols, Bay Gardens president, offers the second floor -- 2,000 square feet -- to nonprofit groups who need a place to hold meetings. He is also naming the main floor viewing rooms after Hamilton's waterfalls, in honour of the Hamilton Conservation Authority's 50th anniversary this year.
Water was the party theme and plenty of spirits were offered in the new facility, which was built on the former site of the Old Plantation Motor Hotel where a murder occurred in 1956. The Plant, as it was known, hosted bikers, seniors, farmers, country music fans and area Liberals who drank from old fashioned draft beer glasses.
Violinist Grenville Pinto performed in a white suit by Harry Rosen, and some guests, including glass artist Shirley Elford, hopped about to the music. Elford's popular angels are displayed in the gift shop along with cremation urns handcrafted by Canadian artists.
"I'm ready to die tomorrow, it's so wonderful," said Lorna Zaremba, director of development for Dofasco Centre for the Arts (Theatre Aquarius).
The funeral home did not advertise job openings but 650 applied for employment. Retired police sergeant Larry White applied because he loved doing funeral police escorts.
Laura Babcock looked radiant in a sparkly designer maternity top. She and husband, Rob Krbavac, have already named their son Dero, after their pregnancy mission was accomplished in Cuba.
Diane Eisenberger was elegant in an Asian-style outfit by Hamilton designer Zoe Zimmerman, under the label Kataya.
Laura Markey looked smashing in a short, Betsey Johnson dress that shimmered with glass set around the neckline. She teamed it with gladiator-style stilettos.