June 7, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Eighty seven years in business is an impressive feat.
However, 87 years for a family-owned, community business is even more impressive. And it’s something Gary Bertoncin is proud to be a part of.
In 2017, Passantino Bros. Funeral Home (2117 Independence Blvd.) is celebrating its 87th year serving the Northeast community. This year, lifetime Northeast resident Vicki LaBruzzo joined the Passantino Bros. staff as an Administrative Assistant. Vicki and her sisters were for many years the face of Kelly’s Bakery at St. John and Jackson Avenue. The move, she said, was like coming back home.
After all this time, Funeral Director Gary Bertoncin said the funeral home has seen many changes, not just on the business side but in the community, as well. Brothers Charles, George and Rosario Passantino opened Passantino Bros. Funeral Home in January of 1930. The business has stayed in the family for three generations, with Charles’s grandson, Charlie Passantino, now acting as owner and funeral director. Bertoncin joined the family business nearly 20 years ago.
“When the second generation was retiring, they needed to fill some roles because they didn’t have enough family members at the time,” Bertoncin said.
One of the biggest changes Bertoncin’s seen was that at one time, there were at least six funeral homes in the Northeast area. That number has dwindled considerably. He believes the reduction can be traced back to the 1990s, when large corporations started buying funeral homes, leading to consolidation.
“We’re still family-owned, which allows us the flexibility to meet any family’s wishes,” Bertoncin said. “We don’t need approval from a corporate office to serve a family.”
Bertoncin also believes the rise in cremation services is derived from the corporate consolidations. There are two basic varieties of funeral services: burial and cremation services. Prices rose with the consolidations and families turned to cremation as a cheaper alternative. Now, however, he believes people have embraced cremation as more than just a cheaper alternative to burial services.
“We’re seeing more families choose cremation not because of the cost, but because it’s another option,” Bertoncin said.
The funeral home offers a wide range of burial and cremation services tailored to fit the needs of each family, from the very simple to the most elaborate. Bertoncin said when the business first opened, it was tailored to the Italian population in the Northeast. Now, with the ever growing diversity in the community, he said they are able to provide services for a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds.
“The area has adapted with the change,” Bertoncin said. “Northeast has always been an immigrant-friendly area.”
The funeral home also adapted with the times, and that’s what has lead to its longevity. Bertoncin said they’ve always treated people and the community with respect. He noted that Passantino Bros. is active in the community — while he himself has also served the community in various leadership roles.
“We’re always very actively engaged,” Bertoncin said. “We feel very connected to this community.”
The funeral home added an extra investment to the building in 2016 when it completed exterior renovations to the business. Passantino Bros. owner Charlie Passantino told the Northeast News that crews took roughly a month to complete work at several spots around the outside of the building.
“Out front they repaired the wall and replaced the caps,” said Passantino of the funeral home’s east side entrance. “On the side of the building they had to go in and cut out some of the stone and replace it. Then we painted the whole building.”
After completing exterior renovations to their business, Passantino Bros. Funeral Home received a $5,000 rebate check from the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID). The check was part of the CID’s Storefront Improvement Rebate Program, which is open to any property owner within the Independence Avenue CID corridor. Those that qualify can receive a 50% reimbursement for improvement costs, with a maximum rebate of $5,000.
The improvements are yet another sign of the Passantino Bros. Funeral Home’s commitment to the community.
To find out more or to discuss their many service options, contact Charlie Passantino or Gary Bertoncin at (816) 471-2844 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.