Two of region’s oldest businesses, Billow and Bissler funeral homes, have merged

October 4, 2018

Two of region’s oldest businesses, Billow and Bissler funeral homes, have merged

AKRON, Ohio - Two of the region’s oldest family-owned businesses have merged.

Billow Funeral Homes & Crematory in Summit County announced Thursday that it has bought the assets of Bissler & Sons Funeral Home and Crematory in Portage County.

Under the sale, which was finalized Aug. 1, Billow will retain all the employees of Bissler, and the Bissler name will remain in place across Bissler’s Portage County operations, said Nathanael Billow.

Billow and his sister, Anastasia Billow, one of Ohio’s first licensed female funeral directors, will manage the day-to day operations of the organization. The siblings’ father, Charles M. “Chip” Billow, is the fifth-generation president and owner of the Billow Co.

Chip Billow and Bissler & Son’s former president, Richard T. “Rick” Bissler, began planning the merger when it became clear the company had no family members in place to succeed Rick Bissler.

“As I approached retirement, I knew in my heart of hearts that there was only one family in the area that I could entrust my business to – and that was the Billow’s,” Bissler said in a news release. “This move will ensure that the families in Kent and greater Portage County will continue to have access to the highest levels of care when faced with the loss of a loved one. I was worried if I sold out to a corporation or large chain, I would have been run out of town.”

The families have maintained a close relationship since 1913, when Billow Co. founder George Billow, a captain in the Civil War, helped his neighbor, Sam C. Bissler, launch a funeral practice, which led to a long-standing friendship.

Although the funeral industry has experienced much consolidation in the past few years, Billow and Bissler remained family owned to ensure their respective communities are well served during hard times, Nathanael Billow said.

“Family owned funeral homes have a very different set of responsibilities,” he said. “It can be a heavy burden, but we have to do what’s right. We are responsible to our friends and neighbors in the community, not shareholders.”

Billow is the oldest company in Summit County, followed by Acme, which remains family owned as well, Nathanael Billow said.

Anastasia Billow joined her family’s business after graduating from the University of Akron in 2014. Nathanael Billow had moved to Detroit to work for Ford Motor Co.’s Global Finance Division.

But he had a change of heart when he realized his family had owned its funeral business longer than Ford had been a company, he said. He returned to Akron last year and is now working to obtain his funeral director’s license.

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