Robinson & Son Bring 123-Year-Old Pine Bluff Funeral Home into 21st Century

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jul. 8, 2013 12:00 am  

Scott Robinson, left, with his father, Adam Robinson Jr. The funeral home they operate was founded in 1890. (Photo by Mauren Kennedy)

“Most family businesses don’t survive past the second generation. We’re now on our fifth,” Adam said.

Change, both said, is a constant, something his work for Roller-Crouch taught him, Scott said. “Probably the biggest challenge for businesses 100 years or older is realizing that you have to adapt every day to change.”

Father and son ticked off a series of new developments in the funeral home business: computers and digitization first among them. “Everything’s done electronically,” Adam said. Robinson & Son has 1,500 subscribers to its website and debuted a mobile website just last month. “There are now website companies that do nothing but websites for funeral homes,” Scott said.

Societal changes have contributed to the need to be adaptable. More families are dispersed, with relatives often living far from the deceased. These far-flung family members learn about and want new services. They expect printed programs, video tributes, help with transportation such as obtaining bereavement fares from airlines and guidance on where people from out of town should stay and where they should eat.

Conducting funeral services has become akin to event planning. For example, visitations used to be held in the homes of family members, Adam said. Now, they’re most often held at a funeral home, and Robinson & Son modified its building to accommodate this shift.

But a family operation also has advantages, benefits that have outweighed the challenges. One of the biggest is “walking into something that’s already established, so you don’t have to spend your energy trying to establish the business. You’re trying to maintain and enhance it,” Scott said. “You know as well as I do that there are small businesses that fail every day because they just can’t quite get over that hump.”

Having the stable, reliable staff that can come with an established business also lets the Robinsons be active in Pine Bluff community affairs, helping the Boys & Girls Club, for example, and the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas.

An old, established business also provides a “platform that you wouldn’t have if you were just starting something or you were in another field,” Scott Robinson said.

Ultimately, Adam said, “I think you have to build on your past success. I think it’s important to remember that in this business, you’re just as good as the last family you helped.”



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