At its peak, from the 1950s through the 1980s, Hall Brothers performed as many as 140 funerals a year.
In 2018, it handled four.
“They moved out or died out,” the owner, Richard Ables, 77, whose uncles founded the funeral home in 1941, said of his lost clientele.
The view beyond Hall Brothers’ front stoop — a new condo tower to the right, another rising to the left, a former Wonder Bread factory turned into a WeWork space down the street — in no way resembles what Ables remembers from childhood. In those years, he spent afternoons and weekends hanging out at the funeral home, stowing himself in empty caskets during games of hide and seek with his cousins.
In later years, they befriended a worker at the Howard Theatre who sneaked them in a side entrance to see the likes of Smokey Robinson and the Temptations, Chuck Brown, James Brown and Aretha Franklin.
“If we saw a white person, we’d ask, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” Ables said of the neighborhood. “Now it’s the opposite.”