Since 2004, Williams Flooks and his staff at Beecher Funeral Home in Pleasantville have helped families through the most challenging period in their lives.
Flooks, a second-generation funeral director, was introduced to the business by his father, who ran a funeral home in Manhattan and later the Bronx, which Flooks still operates.
“I was able to see him help people at a difficult time,” Flooks said of his father. “I thought that was an interesting aspect of being able to help people. It led me to want to help people and guide them through that time of stress and need.”
Last month Flooks was named the 2011 Businessperson of the Year last month. The annual dinner to honor the organization’s selection is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday) at Mediterraneo Restaurant on Cooley Street.
“I’m very honored that members of the Chamber of Commerce would vote for me,” Flooks said. “I’m excited that they would think of me that way.”
The businessperson of the year is selected by the chamber’s businesses for demonstrating excellence, vision, innovation, leadership and community spirit.
Flooks, 57, a White Plains resident, bought Beecher eight years ago because the previous owner wanted to retire and it seemed like a good business opportunity. A licensed funeral director for 32 years, he also teaches at the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Services in Manhattan one afternoon a week.
Flooks said being around grief can be painful at times but maintaining professionalism and distance helps him serve his clients and to cope.
“You have to guide them,” Flooks said. “They look to us for direction and we try to give it to them as best we can.”
When Flooks arrived in Pleasantville, he immediately joined the chamber and the Pleasantville Lions Club to become engrained in the community.
“That opened a lot of doors,” he said. “It’s very important that people know who you are. It’s easier to get business when people know you as opposed to some stranger.”
Flooks took over as chamber president in 2007 and oversees many of its events, including sales days, student business programs with Pleasantville High School and featuring merchants on PCTV programs.
Shortly after he became president, the recession rocked the business community. While Pleasantville businesses were hit hard, Flooks said merchants have witnessed a turnaround.
“There are a lot less vacancies,” Flooks said. “You see businesses coming into Pleasantville and not going out.”
Recently, there has been the Marble Avenue resurgence, with the purchase of the MLA property and the development of property across from Parkway Field.
“It’s really starting to shape up,” Flooks said. “It’s nice to see new businesses coming to Pleasantville. When I came to Pleasantville they talked about that.”
The village escaped from the recession fairly well because it is a destination place Flooks said, with attractions such as the Jacob Burns Film Center and an assortment of restaurants, as well as it being pedestrian friendly.
Although funeral homes are recession resistant, his business has not gone completely unscathed.
“Have services and spending changed? Yes,” Flooks said. “You outline a funeral in the best way for someone’s economic needs. It’s all about working within your means, that’s the most important thing.”
In the future, Flooks hopes to attract more people into Pleasantville to businesses thrive. He plans to work with local media to publicize upcoming sales days and to let the public know what Pleasantville has to offer.
“Pleasantville is a great place to work and live,” Flooks said. “We need to get the word out. Pleasantville has been good to me, and I want to continue to be good for them as long as I am here.”
The chamber’s other two finalists were Melissa Prospero of Prospero Winery and Matt Jaros and Emily Wong of the Glass Onion.