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Custom casket business revived at Lima Road location

‘Til We Meet Again has been resurrected.

The custom-casket business will open a location Sept. 15 in an out lot in the shopping center where Meijer operates a store at 6413 Lima Road.

The operation planned to open inside Glenbrook Square in May. A Waterloo company was set to buy a ‘Til We Meet Again franchise and reportedly spent more than $100,000 on startup costs and renovations at a 4,100-square-foot space at the mall, which did an about-face and no longer wanted the outlet.

The funeral services business planned to sell custom products, such as sports-themed caskets and related merchandise. Nathan Smith is president and CEO of The Willow Group, which owns the casket and urn company based in Wichita, Kan.

He said Glenbrook officials didn’t think his operation would fit with the mall’s offerings and called off the deal.

The business was going to be near Dairy Queen and Foot Locker on the mall’s upper level.

General Growth Properties Inc. of Chicago runs Glenbrook Square but declined to comment. Based on market studies, Smith said his franchise works best inside shopping centers. The response, however, from would-be patrons made him change his business model a bit and allow Fort Wayne-based Out of the Ordinary Investments to run a franchise.

“There were a lot of consumers on Facebook and making phone calls saying they were really disappointed it wasn’t going to happen,” said Dawn Blomeke, operations manager for ‘Til We Meet Again. “There’s a big desire for it.”

Blomeke said the Fort Wayne store will have four to five full- and part-time workers.

In a statement, Smith called his concept unique and that his company’s type of burial is resonating with baby boomers and Generation X’ers who were reared on “self-expression and turned off by the somber mood of traditional funerals.”

“We’re not only helping an industry that needs change,” Smith said, “We’re helping break the taboo about caskets.”