For demonstrating excellence in the marketplace, a positive response and exceptional customer service in the face adversity to the likes they’ve never known, the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the 2021 Business of the Year is Bryant Funeral Homes. Chamber President Megan Barfield and Executive Committee Members Jerry Renk and Shelly Peacock presented Bryant Funeral Home with the award at Bryant Funeral Home’s main location at 1425 Patton Road.
Accepting the award was Owner and Funeral Director Michael Nicholson, alongside Chad Jerke, funeral director. A grateful and humble Michael Nicholson shared, “Our service to our community is not measured by gold, but by the Golden Rule, which is a basic rule of ethical conduct. We are greatly honored and completely overcome with gratitude to have been nominated and selected to receive the Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award for 2021. We are humbled to have our commitment to our community recognized.”
Nicholson and Jerke share they have been challenged this year, which is a sentiment that can be echoed by every community, every business, every family, and every person. “This challenge was met by our staff, with the outstanding support and love of our community, families we have served, and especially our spouses and families at home,” comments Michael Nicholson.
“We would be remiss if we did not thank the funeral directors, staff, and pillars of our funeral home who have gone before us and who have inspired us and paved the road of integrity, dedication and professionalism.”
Those local pillars started the journey of what would become Bryant Funeral Home when Great Bend merchant, J. Lester Cox, opened a furniture store and funeral parlor in downtown Great Bend in 1899. He started his business, Great Bend Furniture Company, on the northwest corner of the intersection of Main Street and Broadway Avenue. He later moved his business to the 1400 block of Main Street.
In 1932, Cox closed the furniture portion of the firm to devote his attention to funeral service. Cox also was one of the founders of the Kansas Board of Embalming, giving more examinations and issuing more licenses while serving on the board than any other person. He sold the funeral home in 1937 to William C. Cook, who had established Cook Funeral Home in 1933 at 1416 Kansas Avenue, and Frank Weber, Ellinwood. The name was then changed to Cook and Weber Funeral Home.
R. Raymond “Ray” Cornett joined the firm in 1939, becoming a partner in 1944. Cook and Cornett ran the funeral home continuously for more than thirty years, until Cook died suddenly while attending a funeral director’s convention in Kansas City, March 21, 1972. Cook’s heirs and Cornett sold the funeral home in August 1972 to Earl Bram, who owned the firm three years. Cornett continued working for the new owner, and died February 18, 1974, while removing a body to the funeral home.
Gordon R. Brantley, Bill Nicholson, and Ted Ricke purchased the Cook and Weber Funeral Home from Earl Bram in August 1975. Brantley was manager of the firm with Nicholson and Ricke being silent partners. Brantley was joined a year later by long-time Great Bend funeral director, Larry Bryant, and the funeral home became Brantley-Bryant Funeral Home. Brantley sold his interest in the firm to Nicholson and Ricke in 1983. The funeral home then became Bryant-Christians Funeral Home, with Larry Bryant and Alan Christians operating the firm. In 2000, when Alan Christians moved to Lindsborg, the name was changed to Bryant Funeral Home, and Michael Nicholson, Bill’s son, took an active part in the business interests and is today the owner. A second funeral home is also owned and operated by Michael Nicholson, Nicholson-Ricke Funeral Home located in Hoisington.
Chamber Vice Chair and owner of TCI Answering Services, Shelly Peacock has had the pleasure of working with the team at Bryant Funeral Home through the answering service for over 25 years and believes Bryant Funeral Home to be beyond deserving of this annual award. “They have always been kind, compassionate and professional and working through the Covid pandemic has been no exception. TCI staff is taking calls and forwarding calls to the Bryant staff daily and they remain calm and friendly even though they have got to be tired and stressed and probably don’t have room for one more funeral service that week.”
Peacock went on to say, “This global pandemic has been so hard on everyone, but the funeral industry has been impacted especially hard with the extra need for their services. Often, “last responders” are overlooked and underappreciated and I am so thankful that they are finally getting the recognition and appreciation that they deserve.”
The staff at Yours Truly Gift & Flower Shoppe also admires the dedication to their work and recognizes the value of this generational business in our community. “The team at Bryant Funeral Home & Nicholson-Ricke are the epitome of caring, compassion, comfort and strength. They are called to be with families during the hardest times. Their team approaches each day with professionalism, lending a listening ear to every family with just the right dose of humor when needed all the while sacrificing time with their own families,” Amy Habiger, owner of Yours Truly Gift & Flower Shoppe
Nicholson reminds everyone, “Remember – if our work can make a difference, so can yours.”
Business of the Year
The Business of the Year Award is an annual award showcasing companies demonstrating excellence in the marketplace. Companies who are chosen for Business of the Year are members of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and have demonstrated excellence in the following areas:
• Customer Service – A company ensures a quality customer service experience every time.
• Shown growth
• Positive response to adversity
• Community Involvement – A company involves itself in business and non-business-related activities in the Great Bend community.
Innovative Business Practices – A company constantly improving its products, services, and programs to best serve its customers, vendors, and employees.