Sparrow (161 Driggs Ave.), a new funeral home in Greenpoint, opens today, replacing Stobierski Funeral Home near McGolrick Park. Passersby may notice final details being added to the exterior of the building, but the interior is completely revamped and ready to fully function as a funeral home.
Sparrow bills itself as “a contemporary funeral home.” Erica Hill, the owner of Sparrow, has a specific vision for the future of funeral homes, or at the very least her contemporary funeral home. But, she hopes others follow her lead.
Erica used to work in video production for everything from documentaries to fashion. She is a storyteller by trade and wants to “help families tell the story of a loved one.” After experiencing funerals that did not represent the dead effectively, Erica decided to put her storytelling skills to use in a different way.
Sparrow’s goal is to reinvent the way families celebrate a person and experience a funeral. Erica hopes to provide a new way of celebrating a person’s life, one that is tailored made to the individual. She has come to understand that one size does not fit all. People are so different and unique and the way one’s life is celebrated should reflect that.
Sparrow offers many ways to host a funeral. Erica said she would facilitate anything and everything she could, from the traditional to the unique. She also wants to encourage people with terminal illness to gather with loved ones before they die. She calls these celebrations Exit Parties.
When one enters Sparrow, the look, feel and smell are not what is commonly expected from a funeral home. Sparrow is still very much a full service funeral home, but an upgraded and revitalized version of one. “There’s no reason why a funeral home can’t smell good and feel good, “ explains Erica.
Erica wants the vibe at Sparrow to be uplifting, not dark or depressing. To achieve this, she made several updates to the space. The existing carpet was removed to pave the way for gorgeous new hardwood floors. The windows were uncovered and replaced with new ones. Skylights were also added to let natural light in and make the space feel brighter.
Instead of a sterile office where families meet to make arrangements, Sparrow has a “family room”. The family room is adorned with two large comfortable couches, flowers and even Legos for kids to play with. The vibe is certainly cheery in comparison to a typical office setting.
Perhaps the most uplifting element at Sparrow is the friendly funeral director, Lily Weinrieb. Lily is 26-years-old with an incredibly warm and calming presence. Lily was a funeral director in Harlem before moving to Sparrow. She has intimate experience with grief. She set up an online group for Spanish speaking mothers who have lost babies. Her experience has made her genuinely empathetic and great at what she does.
Eventually, Lily and Erica will offer grief groups at Sparrow. They also hope to hold other community events in their newly imagined space, perhaps even a movie night. They want Sparrow to feel accessible to the Greenpoint community.
Sparrow is also home to a street-facing retail store selling everything from urns and other traditional funeral home offerings to cards, books, and tea.
Sparrow is Erica’s first foray into the world of funeral homes. She calls it her flagship and hopes to open others across the country. She’s especially glad she started in Greenpoint, excited that the community has been very welcoming.