“We love Santa Barbara. The community has been good to our family, and hopefully we’ve returned the favor to some of the families in town,” Jed Hendrickson says.
That favor provided by the Hendrickson family for more than eight decades is building custom-made headstones and memorial markers through Santa Barbara Monumental Co. Jed has served as president for more than 30 years, and still finds his work rewarding despite its inherent sadness.
He said of working with bereaved families, “Sometimes they’re just grieving and unhappy. ? Sometimes they’re happy to be able to get this done.”
Santa Barbara Monumental was started in 1931 by Jed’s grandfather Al Hendrickson, who previously worked for a monument company in Riverside.
Jed said Santa Barbara Monumental is driven by nothing more than the significance it places on memorials.
“We think memorials are important and I think it helps families bring closure to the death of a loved one. It gives them a place to visit, and that’s important to us,” he said.
After all these years, Jed’s favorite aspect of his work is still designing the stones, which consists of sandblasting and some handwork.
“We’re generally restricted to a certain size and shape in our market, so I find it a fun challenge to try and get everything the family would like into a pleasing format,” he said.
Ryan Hendrickson, Jed’s son who recently returned to his father’s company after a decade living in Canada, gets the greatest satisfaction from “trying to get the family’s vision” on stone while creating memorial markers in the company’s shop.
Of course, working with bereaved families can be difficult, though in many cases is somewhat easier than when Jed’s grandfather and father ran the business. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for a departed person’s family to inquire about headstones on the same day they went to the funeral home and cemetery.
Now families tend to wait four to six weeks before stopping by Santa Barbara Monumental. Jed said this is immensely beneficial to the customers.
“I think it makes the process easier,” he said.
Nerves aren’t always settled after several weeks, however, particularly when young couples stop by after losing a child. In cases of deceased infants, their parents often arrive and begin a selection process of “start, stop, start, stop,” in which they start asking about headstones but get too overwhelmed with emotion and leave until they are more ready.
“That’s emotionally draining and it’s hard. And that’s probably the part I would be happy to do without. But it is part of what we do,” Jed said.
Of the five people who work at Santa Barbara Monumental, Jed credits his wife, Deborah Hendrickson, as its best person for assisting grieving clients, evidenced by the fact that she is the only one at the company to receive thank-you cards from clients years after providing services. Jed said this is likely because of her ability to make customers smile and bring some humor to a sad situation, when appropriate.
Deborah said humor can diffuse tension in certain instances, but sensitivity is always needed.
“Sometimes humor isn’t going to do a lot of good because they’re just, you know, in shock, and in those cases we try to encourage the families to come back after another month,” she said.
As for the company’s future, Ryan said the local Spanish-speaking market is untapped. While neither he nor his parents speak Spanish, Ryan’s wife does and will eventually join the business part-time once all of their kids enter school. Once she’s on board, expansion into the Spanish language market will begin.
“Half of our population is Spanish-speaking. ? That’s a market that is certainly underserved by us, so that’s something I’ve been thinking about,” Ryan said.
Although cremation has long been a popular practice in Santa Barbara, it hasn’t put the company out of business as predicted when Jed’s grandfather ran the company. The claim that nobody would ever again purchase a memorial persisted throughout the years Jed’s father operated Santa Barbara Monumental, but cremated remains are often interred at cemeteries, so “business is still good and strong,” Jed said.
“Yes, maybe someday it’s going to change, but it isn’t changing fast, so we anticipate a good future,” he added.