YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – What began as an ambulance service in the city of Youngstown today is a funeral services business with locations in three cities.
J.E. Washington Funeral Services, owned and operated by James E. Washington, opened its doors in 1981 on Glenwood Avenue in Youngstown.
Washington began his career working at local funeral homes, he says, then started his own business.
AID Ambulance was the first African-American commercial ambulance service with satellite offices in the Mahoning Valley, according to Washington. This led to him upgrading an invalid car service to a professional 24-hour ambulance service.
Washington now operates three funeral homes: on Glenwood Avenue in Youngstown, in Canton and Farrell, Pa.
Adding to the family business in Youngstown is the Jaylex Event Center, also on Glenwood Avenue.
As business expanded, J.E. Washington funeral home faced challenges which led its team to think in “innovative” ways, Washington says.
It acquired the former Victory Lutheran Church, the last African-American Episcopalian house of worship in Youngstown, and transformed it into an events center. The Jaylex Center is available for weddings, graduations, worship, funeral and memorial services and community gatherings.
“Within the last several years, it was an opportunity to expand the business,” says Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II, an intern funeral director.
When he saw the building, Washington purchased it to provide another meeting space for people, while helping to redevelop the Glenwood Avenue corridor.
One trend the family business has faced is the increasing popularity of cremation. “We have adjusted our services and products to meet the varying needs of the communities we serve,” Washington says.
Joining Washington are daughter Whitney Washington-Suber, a second-generation licensed bereavement care specialist, and son Brandan, manager of the Jaylex Center.
Pictured at top: Family members working in the business are Brandan Washington, Whitney Washington-Suber, Monica Washington and James E. Washington, founder and owner of J.E. Washington Funeral Services in Youngstown.