John Girton and wife Barbara.
PET BUSINESS: What inspired you to get into the pet casket business by starting Eternal Rest?
JOHN GIRTON: We founded Eternal Rest Pet Caskets in 2012, after 35 years of planning. My wife, Barbara, and I have four children and 13 grandchildren, all of whom have had hundreds of small pets, from gerbils to small dogs and cats, with many fish, turtles, mice, lizards and ferrets in between. As each of these loved family pets would die, and they all did, we would be once again faced with the decision of how to properly and respectfully care for the deceased pet. Back in the day, the three best ways were an old shoebox, a garbage bag or just digging a hole in the backyard. Our backyards were full of tiny graves marked with popsicle-stick crosses or small memorial stones with the pets’ names painted with fingernail polish.
And we’re not alone. Every year, more than 225 million small pets die, and before Eternal Rest, there was no easily affordable small pet caskets available to the grieving child or adult pet owner to respectably celebrate the life of their loved pet. That is what inspired the idea of designing and manufacturing inexpensive caskets for small pets.
PB: How did you develop the right design for Eternal Rest’s pet caskets? What are some of the key features?
GIRTON: We tested many sizes and designs, and after years of research, we decided to make the caskets from heavyweight press board and print the exterior to depict a fine wood-grain casket with brass corners, handles and a name plate. The interior is printed to depict a soft lining, with a soft-pillow design bottom. The top and bottom fold down to the size of the footprint of the bottom and easily unfold, requiring no tools. The caskets are biodegradable and are made in the USA.
We also learned that to get placement in pet supply stores, the caskets had to be very compact and easily displayed on a peg hook or shelf. In addition, the retail price had to be affordable to the average grieving child or grieving adult pet owner and easily available from the local pet store or veterinary clinic. The suggested retail prices of the four casket sizes we offer range from $8.95 to $19.95, which makes them affordable to most pet owners.
PB: Given their sensitive nature, what is the best way to merchandise and market bereavement products in a pet store?
GIRTON: Most of our customers have a dedicated section in their store. Some display the proper size caskets in the department where they merchandise that size pet.
PB: What does the future hold for Eternal Rest?
GIRTON: Our caskets are now sold in most pet supply stores in the country and in many foreign countries. Retailers can purchase them through most major pet supply distributors around the U.S. We project our caskets will be sold in 99 percent of all the pet supply stores, veterinary clinics and cremation parlors in the country soon.