Something about the smell of cedar brings comfort to a lot of people and it is the first thing that hits you when you step into the new business on the Tompkinsville square.
Comfort for grieving families is just what so many interested buyers in this market need – it is what owner Michael Watson has set out to provide.
Watson, the owner of The Wooden Casket, has been in the construction business for 35 years, he noted. He is a general contractor, but says his favorite work includes installing trim, building stairways and anything custom made.
He takes pride in his work, and that pride and attention to detail are things that he has carried over to his new venture – building custom-made caskets.
Watson’s father, Ranford, passed the trade and skills down seven years ago after making his own and his wife’s caskets to save his children that expense after the time that he died.
Ranford built his coffin of oak with walnut trim and fashioned his wife, Dorlis’s from wild cherry. The caskets were stored in the barn until needed with Ranford often showing off his workmanship to visitors.
Unfortunately, Ranford passed away a few years later but Dorlis still has her casket tucked away in the barn for when that time comes.
She speaks fondly of her late husband, “He wanted to make his own casket. He ordered the plans from a magazine and he built them both. He would show everyone,” she laughed, “He would say, ‘Wanna see my box?’”
The younger Watson, with his background in wood working, expanded his father’s idea and decided to handcraft custom made caskets.
He built and sold three coffins within five years. The past few years he has been building up his inventory, working with Hall Funeral Home in Celina, Tenn., and he just recently opened the store and showroom in down town Tompkinsville on Main Street.
Since the opening of the store in July, Watson has sold two more coffins including a special order cedar custom oversize casket. Due to the nature of the request, Watson worked day and night for three days to complete the job – just hours before the person died.
He says that he has at least a couple of people coming in each day to check out the store and the caskets, as well as other wooden works of art he has created.
The shop offers not only a variety of coffins, but pet caskets, urns, burial urns, cedar shavings and other handcrafted items.
Interested customers can have their loved one buried in a custom-built box or choose from one from Watson’s stock.
The caskets, which are built with local wood, a lot of which is stockpiled in Watson’s father’s barn, are lovingly prepared by Watson and his son Matthew.
A pile of that wood, along with some purchased at a local auction, lines the back wall of the building. Next to the piles of wood are a few different saws, sanders and other tools used to make the coffins right there in the shop, as well as at Watson’s home – hence the smell of fresh cut cedar still lingering in the room.
Potential customers also have the option of picking the lining for the box with heirloom quilts being the most popular choice. Some have rope handles while others have intricate designs.
Keeping this in mind, Watson has built several caskets for his inventory without options so that they can be added in according to the buyers wishes.
It takes a week on average to build a coffin, but in the case of rush orders, Watson tries his best to accommodate the families’ wishes.
Considering the nature of the business, it is critical to have the boxes finished quickly after an order is placed, he said.
The cost of one of Watson’s creations range from $1,500 for the least expensive, to $3,500 for the top of the line box. In comparison to other suppliers the same caskets can run up to $10,000.
Pet caskets are $300 and can also be custom-made or purchased from his in stock collection.
Watson still does construction and custom woodworking, but would like for the caskets to be his only business someday.
He would also like to involve his children in the business, and he notes that his son, Matthew, helps out a lot, but his daughter Sydney is not as interested just yet.
A ribbon cutting was held for the business on Wednesday, July 31, with several people attending. It seems the townsfolk were anxious to see what the talk around town was all about with the new business downtown.
Visitors to the store relate that the caskets are often times “exceptional artistry,” as was noted by Chamber member Patti Richardson.
Watson’s wife, Stacy, took it all in as she smiled in pride at her husband and the reactions to his masterpieces, knowing his art would bring comfort to so many families for years to come.
A legacy left behind by his father, to comfort grieving loved ones. These caskets are a beautiful way to lay your loved one to rest, Watson said, while lowering costs associated with the funeral process. “That’s the last thing that families need to worry about,” he added.
For more information on The Wooden Casket, stop by the store from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., from Monday to Friday, or call 270-427-8912.