Traditionally, in the funeral home business, blacks bury blacks and whites bury whites, but that's changing for Nacogdoches mortician, Noel Cotton. After relocating and rebuilding his mortuary almost 20 years ago, he saw the faces of his customers change, and there was some backlash because of it.
"My goal was to be able to compete with anybody and not put myself into a box of saying 'I can only bury black people'," said Cotton. "My thing was I wanted to compete with anybody that wanted to compete with me."
While minority morticians are a minority themselves, Cotton said his funeral home must follow the same rules and guidelines as any other mortuary.
"There are some funeral homes on both sides of the aisle that are substandard - as far as traditions are concerned [and] as far as state laws are concerned - and there are not enough inspectors to go around and check those facilities."
That's why consumers should check out a funeral home before doing business by visiting and talking to other consumers. Black mortuaries aren't as plentiful as they used to be, but their impact is still powerful.
"The black church, the black teacher and the black funeral director - if you needed some help getting something done, you could go through those three entities, that's changed," Cotton said.
But economic factors are keeping Cotton from competing at the level he'd like. High property taxes and other expenses are what drive the cost of a funeral home; costs that are eventually passed on to the consumer and keep morticians from investing more in their own business.