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Mayer Mortuary
2859 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

It's extraordinary for one reason: it's independent. This, in a time when the funeral chains are eating up small independents all over. Corporations like the Houston-based Service Corp. International and Vancouver's Loewen Group Inc., want a bigger slice of the $7 billion-a-year death industry pie. And, naturally, the more burial plots, the fancier the coffins and the services sold, the better their bottom lines. John Mayer can sell you a $5000 casket, too, but he says he's just as happy putting you in a cardboard coffin and sending you to cremation for $565. "We can do a sea scattering after that for $45 more," he says. "Or place the ashes in an urn for $50 more." The cheapest burial package (which includes embalming, but excludes casket, service, and cemetery plot) is $595. And one thing they promise not to do: pitch the "You owe it to your loved one to give them the best send-off possible" argument.

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