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Published: 12/9/2005

Area sales of Yule-themed memorials grow

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Evergreen grave blankets decorate graves in Calvary Cemetery in Toledo. Evergreen grave blankets decorate graves in Calvary Cemetery in Toledo.
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There's been an upswing in sales of evergreen-bough grave blankets and pillows and of Christmas-theme tributes with decorations including bows and pinecones.

At The Andersons Inc. stores, sales of the memorial items are likely to increase nearly 10 percent this year, and sales also have been brisk for Catholic Cemeteries of Toledo, officials said.

For the last few years, Obie's Flowers in Pemberville has had an increase in sales of undecorated grave blankets and pillows to churches, which add ribbons and other trimmings and resell the memorials at fundraisers, said Diane Hoefkens, partner.

Sales of grave pillows and blankets declined in the mid to late 1990s at The Andersons before picking up again, especially in the last couple of years, perhaps in part because more cemeteries have lifted bans on such decorations despite the cost of cleanup, said Chris McCullough, associate nursery buyer for the retail chain.

Calvary, Resurrection, and Mount Carmel are among local cemeteries that allow Christmas decorations. Catholic Cemeteries of Toledo usually sells about $5,000 worth of grave decorations at the Diocese of Toledo's three graveyards, but Jack Hoeflinger, director, said the cost of removing ornamentations in the spring is equal to the sales revenue.

Early cold weather this year hurt sales of grave pillows and blankets at the four locations of Monnette's Produce Market, said founder John Monnette Sr.

In past seasons when the weather turned bitter early, people couldn't get to graves to secure the decorations, he said.

Prices for grave pillows and blankets vary, as does the amount of ribbon and other ornamentation on them.

Catholic Cemeteries, for example, charges $50 for pillows and up to $95 for large blankets, including delivery, anchoring, and removal at the grave site.

Obie's sells pillows starting at $25 and blankets starting at $40 cash and carry.

Grave pillows and blankets are a regional item unheard of in the South and other parts of the country, said Mr. Monnette, who said the most popular item at Monnette's is a pillows for $30.

The Andersons store in Lima, Ohio, doesn't even stock grave pillows and blankets, but a Columbus store is up to selling 30 of them a year, Mr. McCullough said.

The Maumee store sells about 200 a year, and more were ordered for it this week, he said.

Obie's has made and sold the grave decorations for 40 years, and business has been steady, Ms. Hoefkens said. The shop also sells them wholesale to florists throughout northwest Ohio, she said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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