Ministering to those who have lost loved ones is a family legacy for the Levetts. They own and run Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Home, which has four Atlanta-area locations in Lawrenceville, South DeKalb, Scottdale and Conyers. Though the Gregory B. Levett and Sons business is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, the Levett family has been in the funeral home industry for three generations and nearly three-quarters of a century.
“My grandfather started his funeral home business in 1950 in Conyers, Georgia and then my dad decided to go out on his own in 1980 and that was the start of Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Home,” said Lanier Levett, Vice President of Gregory B. Levett and Sons. Working alongside his brother, sister, and parents, Levett manages the day-to-day operations of the business. Though it is typical for privately-owned funeral homes to be run by families, Gregory B. Levett and Sons is the largest family-owned and -operated funeral home in the southeast.
Throughout their long and successful family history as funeral directors, the Levetts’ mission to treat grieving families as if they were their own has remained consistent; even today, when the business looks much different than it did 70 years ago, different even than it was six months ago, given the COVID-19 pandemic. “Life is not the way it was back in February [of 2020]. The way we do services is completely different now,” said Levett. “But we’re still a family serving families worldwide. That continues to be our motto.”
Having adopted CDC-recommended guidelines for the safety of Gregory B. Levett and Sons’ employees and guests, temperature checks and masks are now required inside all of the funeral home’s chapels, any kind of gathering has strict attendance limits and church services are no longer offered.
The funeral home has also handled services for many COVID-19-related deaths, a risk for employees since that information is often not communicated in a timely manner. “We have to practice universal caution,” Levett said, meaning all loved-ones’ remains are treated with a high level of vigilance to protect both employees and guests from potential infection. Even while masked and exercising extreme safety measures,” Levett said, “we do try to make it as normal as possible for our families.”
The families Gregory B. Levett and Sons serves are incredibly diverse. They are of all races, believing in a broad spectrum of faiths (or none at all), and come from all over the world. Given that, it is unsurprising that one of the things that makes the Levetts’ funeral home unique is the volume of international services they perform. While many funeral homes perform a few international services per year, about 25% of the Gregory B. Levett and Sons’ business is international services.
“We do a lot of business because Gwinnett, specifically, is such a diverse county. We do a lot of international shipment back to Mexico, countries in Africa and all over the world,” said Levett. “We have the capacity to get these folks back home, wherever their respective homes may be.”
The dedication to serving all kinds of families is what initially brought the Levetts to Gwinnett County. Their Lawrenceville chapel opened in 2004 and is the only Black-owned and -operated funeral home in Gwinnett County. “We saw an opportunity in Gwinnett to not only serve African-American families but to serve all families,” said Levett. “Because there was no African-American funeral home in Gwinnett County, even with how big the county is, we wanted to take advantage of that opportunity to provide a first-class funeral home.”
Today, Gwinnett County has also become home for most of the Levett family, including Lanier and his wife. “Most everything you need is in Gwinnett,” he said. “It’s a great place to work, play and be entertained.”
Though Gwinnett is home for the Levetts, they have all made deliberate efforts to become entwined in each community that surrounds their chapels. Each member of the family sits on several community and nonprofit boards and participates in community groups across the metro area. The same efforts are expected from their employees. Chapel managers at all the Gregory B. Levett and Sons locations are required to be involved in community work. “That way the business is not based around just the Levetts, it’s based around the location,” explained Levett. “We want our employees to be a familiar face in the community and easily recognized. That’s how you grow your business.”
The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has been a particularly effective tool for Levett in elevating his networking in the county. Though he is a relatively new member of the Chairman’s Club and the pandemic has hampered some of his opportunities to “rub elbows” with people, Levett expects the Chamber to continue putting him in a position to meet other leaders who are doing great things in the community. “By being a part of the Chairman’s Club, it allows me to have an opportunity to expeditiously meet business owners who are very affluent in Gwinnett County and in our community,” Levett said. “It has forwarded me great opportunities.”
At the end of the day, Levett’s goal is to keep the business strong so that it will flourish and continue down the family line for the next 40 years and beyond. “We want to provide a great service that is recognized by all and we want to create a generational business,” he said. “I’d love to see, even after my death, the Levett legacy continue and be a part of our community.”