GOSHEN — Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy, but a Bristol man has started a business that could help animal lovers through tough times.
Bert Molner launched Pet Honor Caskets earlier this year, a company that quickly caught the attention of Sen. Carlin Yoder and the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County. The company manufactures lightweight wooden caskets for animals that can be used in burials or cremations after a pet dies.
“When I go downstate, I tell people all the time that the brightest, most innovative people in the state and in the country are found right here in northern Indiana and Elkhart County,” said Yoder, who introduced Molner at a news conference Wednesday in Goshen. “To have Bert Molner come up with an idea like this and go after it and produce this and to be able to get it out there to the public is a really exciting thing.”
Dorinda Heiden-Guss, EDC president, saw Molner’s company as an opportunity to promote business diversity in Elkhart County, which is largely known for its role in the recreational vehicle industry.
“It’s important to have diversity when you have an economic downturn,” Heiden-Guss said. “We all just went through it, so it’s at the top of our minds, so as that improves and changes, we often forget about it, and that’s why we have to constantly be building our new skillbase for workers and diversifying.”
The pet industry is a booming business, Molner said. People are spending a record amount of money, about $53 billion annually, on their animals, he added.
“Veterinarians tell us that 90 percent of those pets get brought in to them in plastic a garbage bag after they die, and that’s no way you want to treat man’s best friend,” he said.
The caskets that Molner’s company produces come in five sizes ranging from 18 inches in length for small pets to 52 inches for larger animals, like a miniature pony. The caskets are designed to look like chests that can be used for storage of leashes, food and toys while the pets are alive. Prices start at $199.
Standard caskets come in a walnut finish, but other designs are available, including camouflage patterns for hunting dogs or an American flag graphic for military and police pets. Molner said he hopes to expand the options in the next six months to allow pet owners to customize the caskets with personal photos.
Pet Honor Caskets has five employees and ships to pet cemeteries nationwide. The company is working with local funeral homes in Elkhart, South Bend and Dowagiac, Mich., to market the products.