Fox & Weeks: Family Business Success Crosses Generations

February 15, 2012

Special to the Savannah Morning News

Few Savannah companies qualify for immortality.

One just happens to deal with the business of death.

Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors is celebrating their 130th year of operation in 2012. Leaders of the family owned business shared the secrets to longevity Wednesday at the Savannah Morning News auditorium during a BiS Forum sponsored by Hancock Askew, the HunterMaclean law firm, Abshire Public Relations and Marketing and Business in Savannah.

The “cornerstones” of Fox & Weeks’ business model include service, attention to detail, integrity, generosity, flexibility, adaptability, compassion and a sense of responsibility to the community, according to fourth-generation co-owner Jim Weeks.

“Each generation has played an integral part in the company’s success and have shown those same qualities that have helped us thrive,” Weeks said.

Responsibility is foremost, Weeks said. The Weeks family sold ownership of the business for a 16-year period, and the parent company’s approach nearly made the fourth generation of the family the last to work in the industry.

Jim and his brother, Steve, continued to manage the business following the sale in 1987. Then the new owners, based in Connecticut, sold the Fox & Weeks operation in 1991 to Service Corporation International (SCI), a giant in the funeral industry. Twelve years into that relationship, Jim and Steve became fed up with SCI’s lack of interest in the family’s “cornerstones” and decided to either buy the company back or retire.

SCI agreed to sell the business to the Weeks in 2003. The family has spent the years since building on the reputation established by the first three generations.

Jim and Steve Weeks and their sons, Matt and Scott, have adapted the business to changing times. Fox & Weeks began offering live streaming video of funerals and burials, started utilizing social media tools for obituaries and restructured their service charges because of the impact of recession on clients.

Matt and Scott — the fifth generation — recently launched a new service for the company: Pet memorial and cremation services.

Known as Pets at Peace, the service is committed to serving pets with the same standards of dignity, respect and care Fox & Weeks shows to human family members, Scott Weeks said.

“People really do see pets as part of the family, and sometimes pets are their families,” Scott Weeks said. “It seemed like a natural for us to extend services to pets.”

The Weeks family entered the undertaking business in 1882. John Fox, who was married to a Weeks, started the company along with his brother-in-law James S. Weeks in a house on Liberty Street.

Weeks’ son took over when his father and uncle retired — Fox had no children — and the business remained downtown for a century, including a stint in the large estate on Drayton Street that today is home to the Mansion on Forsyth Park.

Jim and Steve Weeks expanded the business in 1986, opening a southside chapel on Hodgson Memorial Drive. The company grew again in 1998 with the addition of a Whitemarsh Island chapel.

“Fox & Weeks is a tribute to business longevity due to good leadership and the ability to adapt,” Savannah Morning News Publisher Michael Traynor said in introducing Jim Weeks to the audience.