Story by Emily Bott
“Stop on by before you leave” reads the Death Store’s logo. Founder and president Bodhi Be, an ordained interfaith minister, is only half kidding. He wants to put funerals back in the hands of consumers, reducing the financial and environmental costs of the typical American sendoff.
He wants to reduce our reticence about the subject, too. Be would like to see a Death Store next to every Starbucks. “People over fifty say you can’t use a name like that. People under fifty say it’s cool.”
For now, Maui’s only Death Store is tucked around the corner on the makai end of Pa‘uwela Cannery in Ha‘iku. The hearse in the driveway is a dead giveaway that it’s open for business.
Whatever you think of the name, it’s hard not to be drawn in by the Death Store’s ultimate eco-friendly displays. Everything here is biodegradable, facilitating the body’s return to the earth. (Or to the sea; Bodhi also offers full-body ocean burials.) Coffin choices include cardboard, woven bamboo and pine — the latter locally sourced. He uses island crafters, and has urns made of clay, papier mache, almost any thing that won’t harm the Earth. You’ll even find glass pendants to hold small amounts of cremains, if you care to go that way.
The Death Store is more than just a retail space. Be likens it to an end-of-life community resource center, with legal forms, a lending library, and even home-funeral supplies. The business offers a full range of burial services, including, as of this past January, certification by the Green Burial Council as Hawai‘i’s first green funeral home.
Well, almost a full range. The Death Store does not do embalming, which Be vehemently opposes. “Current methods use formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. [Embalmers have a higher incidence of a type of leukemia, and some embalming fluid has shown up in groundwater.] Filling the body with chemicals is a barbaric practice for the sake of making a person look ‘not dead.’”
Bodhi Be doesn’t suggest that people follow monastic tradition and sleep in their coffins, but his merchandise can be used before it’s needed. One of the store’s display cases is a coffin. Another makes a very serviceable bookcase. — Emily Bott
Located at 375 W. Kuiaha Road in Ha‘iku, the Death Store is open Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment. 283-5950; www.thedeathstore.com.