By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Rather than letting the choice of a casket be a sad task, ordering one ahead can be a positive experience.
“A lot of people have fun with this,” said Glenn Brix, the founder of Avon Coffin Works. “It’s their last thing and they can choose how to do it.”
People have brought in their own wood to put a piece of their farm into their casket. “If they have a tree, they can bring it in and we can saw it up and do the whole thing,” Brix said. “We have our own sawmill to cut the wood and our own kiln to dry it.”
Glenn and his son, Jake, do the woodworking on the coffins and urns. They have a large shop and display building behind their home east of Avon. Glenn’s wife, Kathy, sews the coffin linings and pillows and will do whatever a person requests.
“We’ve done them with camouflage and with flannel,” Glenn said. “One lady brought in a comforter with kitties on it and that was used.”
One of Brix’ customers brought in church pews to use for his coffin, since the church he grew up attending was being remodeled.
“A 92-year-old woman wants polka dots for her lining,” he said. “She brought in old fence wood from her backyard for the coffin and we just put a clear coat on it.”
Some people have stood their coffins on end and used them in their homes for knickknack shelves. “One person uses theirs for a wine rack,” Brix said. “She’s going to enjoy it now before she has to use it.”
Caskets are offered in all styles, shapes and finishes. There are western-style mummy-shaped coffins, or the more modern rectangular shapes.
The coffins can be made extra long, extra wide, or smaller than average. Brix has taken an order for a coffin for a customer’s black lab.
One man visited the Coffin Works display at Albany Pioneer Days and shared that he had recently purchased a casket for his father.
“He said it was identical to the one we had there, but that he had paid $4,800 for it,” Brix said. Brix handcrafts the same coffin for $1,450. It is solid oak with antique nickel hardware.
Brix has always been a hobbyist. He learned on his own, starting with children’s rocking horses and benches. Then he built canoes.
When the Brix family first moved to the area 13 years ago, they built the house and then the shop. There were a lot of cabinet makers near their new home, so Brix started building coffins for something different.
“It’s just another form of cabinet building,” he said. The Brix family makes about 30-50 coffins each year.
Jake Brix does some of the building now and will be taking over the business when Glenn quits.
“Whenever I bring home new machinery, Jake just smiles; he knows it will all be his someday,” Brix said.
People coming to Avon Coffin Works are usually pretty upbeat, according to Brix. “They know they are getting something handmade, and are ordering their own or else following someone’s last wishes,” he said.
The Avon Coffin Works delivery vehicle is a fully restored 1951 Chevrolet panel delivery vehicle, painted a bright blue.
“It has a 350-cubic-inch automatic transmission with independent suspension and power disc brakes,” Brix said. “I bought it at a swap meet.”
He has also been working on the restoration of a 1936 Chevrolet Master which should be completed this winter when the interior is finished.
Brix still works for the city of St. Cloud full time, and his son works full time for Avon Body Shop.
“I find it relaxing,” said Jake. “It doesn’t really feel like work to me; it’s different than the average job.”
For more information call (320) 363-8897 or (320) 250-5089.