BUSINESS OF THE WEEK
There are many occupations, such as hair stylist or counselors, that are often seen almost as a form of ministry. A major part of their jobs are to help people to feel better about themselves and cope with life’s difficulties.
Daryl Pressley, owner of the newly-opened Pressley Funeral Home, has the same mission. Helping and transforming grieving families, he says, is his ministry.
Pressley grew up in Kingstree. He is a 1990 graduate of Kingstree High School.
“My father ran a full-service gas station,” Pressley recalled. “He had an account with all the funeral homes. They would get their cars serviced, washed, tires, whatever.”
Pressley worked at the gas station. One day, a funeral home employee stopped at the gas station to fill his tank. The employee had a body in the back of the vehicle, which piqued Pressley’s curiosity. The employee asked Pressley if he wanted to see how they prepare a body, and he said “Yes, sir.”
Pressley went to the funeral home after work. Although he didn’t get to see that body being embalmed, he was fascinated by the difference in how the body looked when it first came in and how it looked in the casket.
“It always amazed me. I saw how the body looked when he took it off the gurney, and then I saw how that person looked in the casket. I saw the before picture, and I saw the after picture. I wanted to be able to transform somebody from one state to another state.”
Pressley got a break when his father purchased a funeral home at a tax sale in 1989.
“He asked me if I would be interested in something like that, and I said yes,” Pressley recalled. “So I went to school for it.”
In 1991, Pressley enrolled in Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service outside of Atlanta. After graduation, Pressley apprenticed with Bartelle’s Funeral Home in Kingstree for two years, learning the ins and out of embalming. He earned his embalming and funeral director’s license on his first try.
Pressley worked at the Firestone plant while working as an embalmer for several funeral homes in the Kingstree area, including the one owned by his parents.
“I just wanted to embalm,” Pressley said. “I didn't like working on funerals. I didn't like dealing with grieving people and hearing them crying. I couldn’t handle that. Even though I had a dual license – embalming and funeral directing – I didn't like working on funerals. I just wanted to be in the back.”
Pressley was content with what he was doing. But after 20 years, the Firestone plant closed. Pressley decided to move to Columbia in 2012 and got a job at the Michelin Tire plant in Lexington County. He went around the Midlands introducing himself to funeral directors, offering his services as a licensed embalmer.
“When I came here, I must have visited 10 or 11 funeral homes, just for them to give me chance,” Pressley said. “I didn’t want to take someone’s job, I just wanted to be a backup embalmer.”
Eventually, he was hired by Bostick-Tompkins Funeral Home. Other embalming jobs followed at other funeral homes in the Midlands. He also traveled back to Kingstree to do embalming jobs.
“I really got scared when I was hired by Bostick-Tompkins,” Pressley recalled. “I was not used to that type of volume. I almost made history one day. I worked a 12-hour shift at Michelin, then came in and had to do eight bodies. They had 16 funerals that week.”
Pressley said that he is grateful to all the funeral home owners in the Midlands. He learned a lot from them, but he is especially grateful to Mr. Tompkins.
“When I started working for Mr. Willie Tompkins and saw that operation, I was impressed,” he said. “I saw how he doesn’t even have to be at the funeral and people respected his staff the way they respected him. He did it full time. I decided that this is what I want to do full time. I didn’t want to work at no plant.”
Pressley decided to open his own funeral home. But doing so meant that he had to step out from behind the scenes.
“I felt that I couldn’t handle working on funerals, but I grew to that point,” Pressley said.
Pressley launched Pressley Funeral Home in West Columbia on June 29, 2019. In addition to funeral services, Pressley offers customized monuments, headstones, cemetery plots, pre-arrangement services, pre-need services (where a client pre-pays for the funeral), burial insurance, after-care services and free consultations.
“My ministry changed from ministering to the deceased to ministering to the survivors,” he said. “Because just like I wanted to make that transformation from how the deceased looked first coming in and then embalmed in the casket, I wanted to make an impact in a transformation in the grieving process for the survivors. They come here weeping, groaning and crying, but when when I give you good service, it helps you heal and be transformed. So that's how the ministry changed. Now I love working on funerals. I used to love embalming and didn’t like funerals. Now I like embalming and love working on funerals. So I have been transformed.”
Pressley says that his funeral home has a simple mission: provide grieving families with superior service, regardless of their finances.
“I told the staff that superior service is not an option, it's mandatory,” Pressley says. “It does not matter how much money you spend. My mission statement is to provide excellent quality funeral service to all regardless of economical status, religion or race. Pressley Funeral Home pledges to only provide one class of service -- superior. I don't care if you spend $2,000 for cremation or $10,000. The $10,000 Family Service isn't going to be better than the $2,000 service. The products are going to be different, the caskets are going to be different, but the service isn't going to be different. Both will get superior service.”
Pressley says that he is grateful to the local funeral homes that helped him and he is proud of the fact that they have good relationships.
“I don't have competitors, I have colleagues,” Pressley said. “I am not afraid to ask any of them for help.”
And that works both ways. Pressley said that last week, another funeral home called his personal cell phone and requested two cars. He was happy to help. He said that funeral home owners regularly help each other in this manner.
“I do not compete. I don't price match. They have a price, and you have to respect that. For me to price match them is degrading my service,” he said. “I opened not to compete, but to give society an added choice in funeral service. I want to be looked at as the people’s funeral home. I want to service everybody.”
Pessley says that long term, he plans to get licensed in the surrounding states so that he can serve families no matter where they are from. It just a part of his goal of fulfilling a greater mission.
“This gives me an avenue to be a witness for Christ because I'm a minister,” Pressley says. “This funeral is a ministry – secondly, it is a business. Before we even talk finances, we have already started ministering to the survivors.”
Even though he has only been open for three months, Pressley says that he believes that he is making an impact.
“I had one lady tell me ‘I never left a funeral home feeling happy before’,” he said. “I had never heard anyone say that before, that they left a funeral home feeling happy.”
Pressley says that it is how he wants every one of his clients to feel.
Pressley Funeral Home is located at 1101 Charleston Highway in West Columbia. He can be reached by calling (803) 205-4017 or via e-mail at PressleyFuneralHome@yahoo.com. To learn more, visit www.IDarylPressleysFuneralHome.com.