As teenagers, Trevor McCall and his older cousin Craig McCall Williams held a different type of summer job, in a different kind of business, the funeral business.
“We always knew about the business and were familiar with it, but it was just a summer thing,” Craig says.
Running flowers, setting chairs and driving the funeral car, they got a feel for the family business their great-great-grandfather David and his brother James started in 1921.
Four generations in, the McCall boys are still at it. As certified funeral directors Trevor, 36, and Craig, 40, are bringing the business into a new direction with the completion of the 15,000 square-foot McCall Gardens next to Royal Oak Burial Park on Falaise Drive. They work with Trevor’s dad David (Craig’s uncle), the third generation-owner. Together they’ve helped oversee the three-year process and 18-month construction of the new building, which opened on Aug. 2. The company will also retain its original site at 240 Johnson St.
The cousins credit David’s shrewd decision to purchase the property next door to the Royal Oak Burial Park in 1998, where the McCalls built the Sequoia Gardens in 1998. During recent construction the Sequoia Gardens building was renovated and is now connected as a whole to the McCall Gardens.
“We’re really proud of our big family, a close-knit family that holidays together when we can,” Trevor said. “We’re not forgetting where we came from.”
The family pride beams almost as bright as the daylight filling the McCall Garden’s main hall through ceiling-high windows, bouncing off walls of exposed cherry and fir. It’s bright, with a West Coast contemporary style that is not seen in other funeral homes.
Before the decided to build in Saanich, the business did four months of local research.
“It was about three years ago we decided to either build a new facility here at Royal Oak or renovate the downtown site, so we really wanted to know what people wanted if we were going to [Saanich],” Trevor said.
With pressures coming from corporate competition, the building was in part born out of the family’s desire to move to connect deeper with the community.
“We’ve been approached to sell, but we’re proud to be family owned and proud to have a think local mindset,” said Trevor.
Trevor, who earned a scholarship with Iona College in New York after a successful junior hockey career with the Victoria Salsa (Grizzlies), came back to the funeral business about seven years ago. Craig was already here, having joined full time in 1999.
“My wife and I came back from New York and committed to being here for two years,” Trevor said of his wife Erin of New York. “By the end of it, there was no question we were staying.”
Before Trevor arrived, Craig had already completed his funeral director apprenticeship. With four kids between them, Craig with a son, 10, and a daughter, 7, and Trevor with two boys, aged one and four, it’s the makings of a fifth generation of McCalls.
“From the start there was never any pressure to go into the family business,” Craig said. “After I came back [as an adult] I fell in love with it, the hugs, the people we work with and the thanks we get, and when I was offered to work full time I took it.”
The name Sequoia Gardens came from the series of large sequoias on the Royal Oak property. In Saanich fashion, the new facility was designed around three of the biggest sequoias. It was designed by local architect Peter de Hoog, and built by Saanich’s Durwest Construction.
“We did all the plans with the preservation and celebration of the sequoias in mind,” Trevor said.
Before constructing the facility, the company hired a local research company that ran focus groups and surveyed more than 400 Greater Victorians. It took four months, and was well worth the effort, Craig said.
Being next to the non-profit Royal Oak Burial Park is part of the draw. Like the First Memorial Funeral Services, which is just a few hundred metres up Falaise Drive, McCall’s has a close relationship with the burial park.
McCall’s new hall can host up to 300 people in the main centre and up to 45 people in the more intimate Redwood lounge. There are five large TVs and up-to-date audio visual capabilities which can run tributes and photo albums. They can also broadcast the service live on the internet to anyone in the world, which is helpful when the funeral draws over capacity.