Greenville, Mich. (WZZM) -- A Greenville auto parts supplier has found an interesting way to survive the economy. Clarion Technologies Inc., a company specializing in manufacturing plastics for cars and home appliances, is now building caskets.
"It is truly a departure," said John Brownlow, Chief Operating Officer for the company.
For more than a decade, Clarion Technologies was known for producing parts primarily for the automotive industry. Brownlow says a few years ago it became clear companies like his had to adapt or die.
"Absolutely. I think you have to change your mindset. I mean literally, get out the box. Who would have ever thought of this 2 years ago?" he said. "We knew with what was happening in the marketplace we needed to look at different markets. We actually teamed up with a partner who actually developed the product out of Mexico. We were in Mexico at the time. We've since closed that facility. We thought it was a good endeavor for expansion and also gave us a product that was truly a manufacturing complete product."
The company is working to develop as many proprietary products as possible. Brownlow says the company is the first in the world to manufacture and sell multi-piece, injection-molded, plastic caskets.
"We believe based on our introduction two weeks ago in San Antonio at the ICCFA, which is the International Conference for Cremations and Funerals, it appeals to everyone. Some folks felt that it has the expensive feel and look, but it is a lower cost," he said. "I think a lot of it is cost. Let's face it, people are trying to find ways in all of their budgets how to shave costs. This gives them that opportunity."
Brownlow says the average casket retails for anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000. He believes offers the same durability and style for a fraction of the cost.
"Our goal was to be between 30% to 40% less than what is currently offered," Brownlow said. "The aesthetics were obviously important. We knew we had to bring something to the marketplace that didn't exist. You can't buy a marble casket. We have a marble-look casket. I think that is what is really unique from an aesthetic standpoint is the marble and some of the woods we are able to do."
He says the company is manufacturing 16 different styles in either marble-look, wood-look or painted and will offer more in the future. The caskets are made 35% from recycled products. Brownlow says they will officially launch June 1st under the company name, Commemorative Casket USA.
Even though the official launch is more than two months away, he says, the marketplace likes what they have to offer.
"We do have orders already," he said, not telling how many, but admitting he was pleased with the number.
Commemorative Casket USA will sell its products throughout the US and Canada. The company expects to add more than 50 employees to the payroll over time.