|Customers visiting the elegantly appointed Tudor style mansion in the heart of the Historic West End experience a setting more like home than funeral home. The parlor is a fine arts gallery of marble floors, crystal chandeliers, glass inset doors, upholstered seating, original paintings and large ornate mirrors set above handcrafted wainscoting. Birds sing sweetly from their perch in large cages, while a grand piano stands at attention. Every location is impeccably designed to make guests feel comfortable at a time when they are perhaps most ill at ease. Watkins makes frequent appearances, warmly greeting guests as if they were old friends.
Personal service, the hallmark of his business, sets Watkins apart in a highly competitive industry. “I never want to seem too busy for customers,” he says. He sets the example of personal attention that he demands of everyone who works in his organization. Despite a hectic schedule, Watkins makes it a point to attend most services they conduct, whether he knows the deceased or not, acknowledging the family, and presenting a plaque in memory of their loved one. He phones every family personally to offer his condolences.
With the philosophy that a funeral service is more a celebration of life than a mourning of loss, he has developed a widely recognized signature style that is uniquely Willie Watkins. “We plan a service,” he explains, “that the family can remember with fondness.” He became the first in the area to release doves as a symbolic gesture of releasing the spirit to the heavens. In addition to his signature flower cars, Watkins offers black cars with silver tops, and horse drawn carriages for the processional. His funeral directors wear top hats and tails. It’s all designed to give the family a memorable experience.