The doors to the historic Dent's Undertaking Establishment were locked this week by the state's Department of Revenue.
State tax collectors swept in Monday to close the city's oldest black-owned funeral home.
The business can reopen, however, if the owners pay the $142,334 it owes the state for sales taxes, said Charles Willey, the spokesman for the Department of Revenue.
The funeral home was founded by John and Julia Dent in 1888, family members have told The Augusta Chronicle in past reports. The business has remained in the Dent family since.
Dent's has a history of tax difficulties going back to the mid-1990s, Mr. Willey said.
According to state and county records, liens have repeatedly been placed on the funeral home to collect federal, state and local taxes.
If the current balance is not paid, the Department of Revenue could take possession of all personal property inside the D'Antignac Street funeral home, Mr. Willey said. No date for such action has been set.
The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. According to property records, it is valued at $284,636 and is in the name of Frank Griffin, the funeral director.
The sales tax is considered a trust tax that businesses collect and send to the state, Mr. Willey said. The state keeps 4 percent and sends the rest back to the county, he said.
A person answering the phone at Dent's who didn't want to be identified said Tuesday that the owners are working to raise the money to pay off the tax debt. They hope to accomplish that today.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BUSINESS STAYED IN THE FAMILY
- Family members told The Chronicle in past reports that Dent's Undertaking Establishment was founded by John and Julia Dent in 1888. Mr. Dent learned embalming at Platt's Funeral Home because at that time blacks weren't allowed to attend embalming school programs for whites.
- Dent's moved from Broad Street to D'Antignac Street in 1900.
- Mr. Dent died in 1911, and his wife, Julia, took over the funeral home. Mrs. Dent died in 1945. The Dents' son-in-law, Thomas H. Ketch Sr., who married their only daughter, took over the funeral home. Mr. Ketch led the company until his death in 1985. His daughters, Thomasina Ketch and Juliette Burton, took over the family business.
- In 1990, the funeral home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Source: Augusta Chronicle archives