100 YEARS STRONG: Covington Casket Company reaches historic milestone

Published 2:20 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024

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Driven by Williamson family values, relationships made with funeral directors across the country, and hard-working employees, Covington Casket Company is celebrating 100 years in business in 2024.

Robin Weaver lines a casket with assistance from Williamson.

The business began in 1924 when a casket company from Opp joined forces with a casket factory in Andalusia. Originally named Andalusia Casket Company, the name was later changed to Covington Casket Company in 1945.

“It is a milestone in any business but is also a big milestone in the casket business,” Covington Casket President/CEO Alan Williamson said. “According to the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America, there were about 300 casket companies in the United States in 1970. Now, there are about 17 manufacturers, so we are one of those 17 who have weathered the storm. Some have been through acquisitions, while others have just closed. There were 16 casket companies in Chicago alone during that time but none now. We feel blessed to be a part of this elite group that has survived whatever storms came our way.”

Judge Robinson and his business partner started the company in Opp and brought the factory to Andalusia. Caskets were sold to hardware stores before funeral homes existed.

Kathy Jones and Michele Nixon work on sewing projects inside the sewing room. Covington Casket Company added this room as part of an expansion to its current home in the Industrial Park.

“From what I have read, the casket business kicked off with viewing and visitations when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Viewing bodies came into practice after embalming was previously done, but those became more acceptable when Lincoln’s body was taken on a tour by train for several days through major cities. Funeral homes opened in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and we started selling directly to them,” he said.

Alan’s father Johnny Williamson began work as a sales representative for Covington Casket in 1971. He acquired 50 percent of the company from Levi Wishum in 1977 and the remaining 50 percent from Aubrey Mills in 1986 when Alan joined the company.

“My dad ran the business, and my brother Eddie started in the 1970s when our dad acquired the first half. In December 1993, he passed away from cancer. Eddie and I took over as partners in the business at that time. Out of the 17 remaining casket companies, only a few are independent. We consider ourselves blessed to be a major carrier in the casket industry. We have a well-respected name, and you have to be doing something right to still be in business for 100 years,” he said.

Covington Casket Company employees work on caskets during the welding stage.

Covington Casket currently serves about 300 funeral homes from its corporate location in Andalusia. Warehouses are located in Hammond, Louisiana, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Hanceville, Alabama.

“We are reaching out into new areas. Last year, we put a new warehouse in Hanceville, just outside of Cullman. We were welcomed with open arms and did almost a thousand caskets in that area last year. We are possibly looking to expand again into Georgia or Florida around the I-75/I-10 corridor. If you’re not moving forward, you’re sitting still,” Williamson said.

Covington Casket Company operated on North Cotton Street in downtown Andalusia from 1925 until 2021. The business expanded during the summer of 2021 and moved to its current location at 400 Progress Drive in Andalusia’s Industrial Park.

Michael Casalinuovo assembles a casket.

“That has been a good move for us. We were producing between 30 and 35 caskets a day over there. Now, we are producing between 45 and 50 caskets a day here with room still to grow. We will reach out to our North Alabama warehouse in a few months to go into the Chattanooga and Nashville areas. We have a great staff here that is able to meet the demands of the casket business. I’m blessed the Lord has let me stick around to enjoy this 100th year with my fellow suppliers, employees, and funeral homes,” Williamson said.

Williamson became the sole owner of Covington Casket on Jan. 1, 2018, and has approximately 50 employees.

“I have an excellent staff and enjoy enlisting them to communicate with our customers in a one-on-one relationship. I built several relationships while on the road for 25 years. Our staff does a fantastic job taking care of funeral directors and sends out letters closing with ‘Personally Yours.’ That relationship with customers is carrying us. We are not a number but rather a name. Casket companies up north like the Southern experience when they call. I want to leave a legacy for this area and my family. My dad laid a good foundation we built on and would be proud of everything we have accomplished,” he said.

Ishmael Buckley applies paint to a casket.

According to Williamson, customization makes up about 35 percent of sales in the business. He said that the completion of one custom casket takes approximately 24 hours.

“Customization is a big part of our business. We are always doing what the family wants and trying to make it special. Other casket companies make what I call cookie-cutter caskets, but we can make any color or design and want to honor the life of that loved one. Doing customization allows us to stand out from other casket companies. My dad always said there would be a need for a custom casket manufacturer, and he nailed it. I feel like customization is part of our calling and opens up the door for us,” he said.

Select merchandise commemorating 100 years of the business will be available for purchase. Those interested are asked to call or visit the office. Covington Casket will celebrate its centennial with vendors, employees, and funeral directors at the Kiwanis Community Center in April.

Bo Daniels puts the finishing touches on a completed casket with a glossy shine.

“I’m here to serve and have the backs of funeral home owners. Going through my dad’s death, I realize how certain things mean so much to people. I will get calls where the funeral director is sitting with the family. There is a relationship built between the funeral home owner and me and between that funeral home and that family,” Williamson said.

For more information visit www.covingtoncasket.com or call 1-800-726-5570.