Pet Casket Factory Tours
It's amazing how many odd industries fail to leverage their uniqueness with any kind of public display. Tantalizing leads to tours -- view the "sausage pump" women at the bologna plant, or the gallery of frozen heads at the cryogenics facility -- are blunted by PR flacks and Health Code scaredy cats. Which makes the Hoegh Pet Casket Factory Tour special.
"View the manufacture of pet caskets and tour a model pet cemetery," promises the promo literature and the great postcards they sell. The factory is in a low L-shaped building, with an office wing and a warehouse/manufacturing wing. It's owned by the Hoegh family, who have been running the public tours for many years. There's a spirit of good natured fun about the whole thing -- school groups and tourists come during business hours (avoid lunchtime) to discover the romance of pet casket manufacturing.
The tour starts in a showroom, where a complete pet funeral seems to be in progress -- with casket, floral arrangements, candles and velvet paintings of mournful, large-eyed puppies.
Hoegh displays the seven different sizes of caskets that account for most sales, but there are special models exhibited as well. One reminds us of the McD's classic Styrofoam Quarter Pounder box, used for cremations or burial of small birds. The caskets are molded from advanced materials with hermetic sealing qualities that make them "good enough to use for time capsules," according to our guide. (Scoot over Fido, this is a message to the Future.). The baby blue and pink plastic models on the postcard are made for small dogs and miniature pets (whose owners tend to be fussier about that sort of thing).
For large groups, a video is shown in a conference room, explaining Pet Cemetery Theory. "People are afraid to socialize. They need their pets. And burying their pets in the back yard is against the law." Then it's off to the sewing room and the photometal shop, where memorial plaques for the likes of Chuck the Lizard and Fruit Loops the Toucan are on display. Move on to view to the vacuform machine, where the exteriors of the caskets are made, and the warehouse filled with stacks of casket shells and finished products.
One wing is dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Wheel, Buffalo, New York pet cemetery pioneers, for their lifetime contribution to the pet cemetery industry. The Hoegh family has spent vacations with them, as well as with the owners of the famous Bubbling Well Pet Cemetery in Napa, CA. While the Hoegh Pet Casket Factory has absolutely no dead pets on premise, visitors (like us, anyway) can't wait to visit the real thing at places like Bubbling Well.
The tour concludes outside at the model pet cemetery, where a brass plaque on the crematorium informs tour goers, "If Christ would have had a little dog, it would have followed Him to the Cross."