Stillwater is a special place for John and Betsy Mahn. It’s the city where John Mahn got his first job in the early 1980s, and where the couple got married on the St. Croix River.
So, John Mahn’s recent purchase of the Simonet Funeral Home can be considered a homecoming of sorts for the family.
“We had a lot of personal affiliation with the area,” said Betsy Mahn. “We really, really love this area. We’re really excited about coming back here.”
The Mahns, who own Mahn Family Funeral and Cremation Services of Red Wing, bought Simonet Funeral Home, a Stillwater institution since the Civil War, in April. The family, which owns 12 funeral homes in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, said Simonet is a perfect fit with their company’s philosophy.
“We like to stress that we’re a family-owned business. We’re a family- and community-based business,” said David Mahn. “Simonet’s is a well-known name in the Stillwater area.”
Paul Simonet, who was the funeral home’s president since the August 2011 death of former Simonet president Jim O’Brien, said his cabinet-makers great-grandfather, Sebastian, immigrated to the U.S. from Switzerland in the mid-1800s and eventually came to Stillwater because of the St. Croix Valley’s logging industry.
In those days, Paul Simonet said his great-grandfather was involved in several businesses.
“If you made furniture and cabinets, you made caskets,” he said.
The Simonet family eventually operated a furniture store and funeral home, at times in the same building, according to Paul Simonet. The family once had three locations in the city, he added.
“That was back in the day when the funeral home was part of the furniture store,” said Paul Simonet. The current funeral moved to its current Osgood Avenue North location across from Fairview Cemetery in 1966.
Paul Simonet said that he, Joe “Dode” Simonet and Joe O’Brien, decided to sell the funeral home for several reasons. Family considerations was one.
“I don’t have any kids that want to get involved in the family business,” he said.
A desire to step aside and the Mahn’s interest in acquiring Simonet Funeral Home were other reasons Paul Simonet gave for the decision to sell.
“We were all tired of it. Joe (Simonet) wanted to sell, too. Joe (O’Brien) did, too. We all decided it was time. The Mahns showed a lot of interest. John called a lot of times,” said Paul Simonet.
John Mahn said he was encouraged by good friend, Robert Crea of Cullen-Crea Funeral Home in New Richmond, Wis., to consider buying Simonet.
“We talked to Robert Crea and he encouraged us to buy this,” said John Mahn.
The Mahns took control of the funeral home April 15. Jason Haley is funeral director and Dode Simonet will stay to help with visitations and funerals. Anne O’Brien and Amanda Domeier round out the Simonet staff.
“Jason worked with us in Red Wing. We had a very good employee who knew the area,” said Joe Mahn.
The Mahns will keep the Simonet name, but plan renovations to the funeral home’s interior and restrooms, will install a public elevator and turn a vacant apartment behind the funeral home into a fellowship and banquet hall.
“We want to meet the needs of the consumer and the town,” said John Mahn.
“It’s new blood. It was time for new blood. They’re family-oriented,” added Paul Simonet.
“It’s a great community,” said Joe Mahn.
And one the Mahns’ know well.
“My dad got his start in the funeral business here at Simonet after getting out of school,” said Joe Mahn.
“I was a student in mortuary science in 1982 and worked here for three months,” added John Mahn.
Contact Erik Sandin at [email protected]