Not long ago, a 47-year-old Liberty City guy named Slim died. His brother Larry and sister Helen are unemployed, so they didn't have the money for a standard funeral. What to do? They headed for Opa-locka's Funeral Store, a drab pink building on NW 119th Street bearing the slogan "Caskets-4-less." It's not a mortuary -- the Funeral Store won't prepare a corpse for you. Instead, it's something like Home Depot for the recently bereaved; inside, fluorescent lights illuminate coffins at supposedly wholesale prices. To save you even more money, the Funeral Store's website reminds you "embalming is not required by law."
Discount death emporiums have popped up in low-income neighborhoods around the nation. And they've earned a reputation, as Larry points out: "Overdoses and murders, that's what it's all about. Why else are they going to pick a spot in Opa-locka to open up?"
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Besides the guy Riptide has spotted walking the streets with a sandwich board advertising cheap coffins -- what's that about? -- it seems the Funeral Store is a rare option for no-frills casket-shopping. It's owned by lawyer Vincent T. Brown, who also runs a traditional funeral home named Grace. Additionally, Brown was once CEO of the on-life-support Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust (MMAP) and is CEO of the moribund anti-poverty agency JESCA. "In these tough economic times, you are going to save significant money using us," Brown vows, adding that his coffins range from a $375 model to "the one that Michael Jackson was buried in," which costs $50,000.