As one of its oldest businesses, and the oldest Black-owned business, Barlow Funeral Home is a staple in Tipton County.
Founded by Major Barlow in 1925, the funeral home is nearing a full century of service by generations of Barlow family members.
It is currently operated by Shelia and Brittany Barlow, the widow and daughter of well-known operator Quincy Barlow.
A family history of unexpected deaths shaped the business’s trajectory.
When Major died in the early 1930s, he left the business to his nephew, V. B. Barlow Sr. He had graduated from mortuary school 33 months prior but ran the business until his death in 1968.
After V.B died, his wife, Marjorie W. Barlow, took over the reins of the business until she retired in 2001.
“My father died when I was 12-years-old,” the late Quincy Barlow told The Leader in 2010. “My mother took over and ran it for 33 years. She was the chief principal officer from 1968 to 2001. She’s really the one who has held this business together.”
Quincy and his brother, Drakely, worked together in the business until Drakely died in 2006.
Unfortunately, Quincy died in 2015 at age 58. His son, Quinten, ran the business for a couple of years until his death in 2017 at age 36. Both men had heart attacks.
After the deaths, Shelia and Brittany swore to keep the objective of the business alive by being “very community-service- oriented.”
“We are grieving in that moment,” Brittany said of the passing of her father and brother, “understanding that loss, but at the same time, we have a business. Service is our top priority. We’re not just a funeral home. We’re here to do whatever the community needs us to do.”
She has her own motives she stands by and sticks to.
“So, I always like to move through life with grit and grace, and that’s what we’ve been able to do, to move through this and handle the business side of it, but graceful as well.”
Now, there were bumps in the road that they had to overcome.
“We’ve had struggles just to get to this point right here,” Shelia added.
They had to understand the business side of the funeral industry. Luckily, after receiving her B.A. from Vanderbilt, Brittany completed mortuary school and with her experience growing up in the building, she overcame the learning curve.
“I knew that this would a part of my life some way, somehow,” Brittany said, “but we weren’t here every day. We weren’t handling the business side of it.”
Brittany looks up to her grandmother, who passed in 2014, for her diligence to step up when needed.
“My grandmother, who had no funeral home industry back- ground, ran this business. She was transformational in this funeral industry. She became a female entrepreneur in the ‘60s, when that was unheard of.”
Shelia and Brittany had to inform the community that the Barlow Funeral Home wasn’t closed by continuing to stand by their morals and be an asset to any- body they encountered.
Since many people were familiar with Quincy and Quinten, they had to make their name known.
“We are thankful and grateful they stuck with us,” Shelia said. They kept the family legacy alive not because they couldn’t let the business die out, but to train up the next generation of Barlow’s, consisting of Brittany’s son, Malcom, and Quinten’s two children.
“We want them to know that the legacy of moving through life through grit and grace, knowing that there’s going to be trials and tribulations, not just as business owner as female entrepreneurs, but just in life. Things happen.”
Barlow Funeral Home has been located at its present location, 205 N. Main Street, since 1944.
For more information about the family business, see barlowfuneralhome.com.