With a crowd of friends and neighbors on hand Sunday, a family whose business has been serving north Minneapolis for decades celebrated a renewal of their commitment to the community.
Estes Funeral Chapel & Cremation Services marked the grand opening of its new building on the corner of Plymouth and Penn avenues, not far from where the family business began in 1962.
For more than a half-century, the Estes family has served a primarily African-American community in north Minneapolis — assisting families in their most difficult times.
Founder Richard Estes died five years ago. His widow April Estes, who cut the ribbon for the new building on Sunday, said it was important to keep the family-run business going; it's one of the oldest black-owned businesses still operating in Minnesota.
"It means a lot to me. It means a lot to my community," she said. "Because this is something that we can call our own. We don't have a lot of things in north Minneapolis we can call our own."
It's the third home for the business, replacing a building across the street from the new facility.
State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion grew up in north Minneapolis, and he remembers that the Estes family always supported his youth organizations' fundraisers.
"Mr. Estes would always make sure he bought some candy or at least encouraged you," Champion said Sunday. "So, not only are they great business leaders in our community, but they are great community pillars as well."
Estes Funeral Chapel CEO and funeral director Tracy Wesley said having a connection with the north Minneapolis community is at the core of their business model.
"Being a small funeral home, being a minority funeral home — I just think we really encompass the families that we work with and engage with them on a more compassionate level."
Wesley, who is the nephew of Richard and April Estes, said funeral home clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances. And he said each situation requires flexibility and sensitivity.
"We deal with families from the least to the most. And you have to be able to serve them equally, irregardless of what their financial situation is," he said. "And that's something that my uncle always prided himself on — what he's instilled in me. To be able to help any family that comes through our door."