Former Olds Dealer Opens Funeral Home

After General Motors Corp. buried the Oldsmobile brand, an Olds dealership general manager did something in kind: she became a funeral director. Sarah Lee-Ellena, who worked at the defunct family-run Bill Lee Oldsmobile in Clinton Township, MI, used her share of the GM buyout and private capital to fund a second career. She enrolled in the Wayne State University Mortuary Science program. Upon graduating,

After General Motors Corp. buried the Oldsmobile brand, an Olds dealership general manager did something in kind: she became a funeral director.

Sarah Lee-Ellena, who worked at the defunct family-run Bill Lee Oldsmobile in Clinton Township, MI, used her share of the GM buyout and private capital to fund a second career.

She enrolled in the Wayne State University Mortuary Science program. Upon graduating, she and husband Mark Ellena this year opened the $4 million Lee-Ellena Funeral Home in Macomb Township, MI.

“Buying a dealership was way too expensive,“ Lee-Ellena tells The Detroit News.

But using her dealership skills, she did market studies on her new venture. She expects to break even in three years.

The funeral home takes its design cues from Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie-style architecture. It includes amenities found in modern dealerships, such as a children's play room and a coffee bar.

A funeral home has less inventory, personnel and overhead than a car dealership. Yet there are similarities, “because you are managing a large facility with a showroom in front and a service area in back,” Lee-Ellena says.

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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