Few businesses in Newmarket have seen the town change as much as Roadhouse & Rose Funeral Home.
Located in the heart of historic Newmarket at 157 Main St. South — where it has operated since the 1920s — Roadhouse & Rose holds the reigning title of the oldest business in Newmarket, and third oldest funeral home across Ontario.
Founded in 1842, Roadhouse & Rose has not only seen the population of Newmarket grow from just 600 to over 88,000, it has welcomed an increasingly diverse community of clients — changes that have seen the funeral home flourish through almost 200 years of growth, adaptation and evolution. So, too, does it remain the only locally owned and family operated funeral home in Newmarket and Aurora.
“Roadhouse & Rose has evolved with the community,” said Wes Playter, manager and owner of Roadhouse & Rose Funeral Home. “As the community gets bigger, you expand your facilities, and as the community gets more diverse, you offer different types of services.”
Playter, a passionate local historian and collector of artifacts from Newmarket’s past, is the third-generation member of his family to own Roadhouse & Rose.
As manager, he takes a hands-on approach to the business, working with Roadhouse & Rose’s seven-strong team to ensure the quality of daily operations.
“I try to maintain the quality of service that we’d like to have, and that my parents were known for,” said Playter.
The history of Roadhouse & Rose can be traced back to 1842, when Newmarket resident Samuel Roadhouse, a cabinet maker, opened up his own business after years of apprenticeship. In an age before modern machinery, cabinet makers were the go-to manufacturers for coffins, and the business eventually evolved to provide undertaking services as well.
Roadhouse’s business, located on the northeast corner of Main and Queen streets, eventually grew to such prominence that it was represented as one of the nine bees on Newmarket’s crest when it was incorporated as a town in 1880.
Upon Roadhouse’s death in 1890, Neriah John ‘NJ’ Roadhouse, his son, took over the business. As one of Newmarket’s earliest mayors (1905-1907) and a member of town council for 12 years, NJ oversaw the arrival of electric lights, modern roads, and water systems to Newmarket.
When NJ became business partners with Lyman Rose, husband of his daughter, Mildred, in 1921, the business — then called The Roadhouse Funeral Home — took on its present-day name. To help fit the needs of a rapidly growing community, the pair moved the business to a larger location on Main, where it still remains.
When NJ passed away in 1932, Lyman and Mildred continued to run Roadhouse & Rose until 1953, when they retired and sold the firm to their son, Donald Roadhouse Rose, and Rodney Ecobichon and Wray Playter, two employees of the company.
Roadhouse & Rose changed hands again when the three men, at staggered times, sold their shares to Glenn Playter. By then, the business had further expanded into the former Newmarket Era building next door.
Greg Davey joined Roadhouse & Rose in 2000, as did Wes Player, Glenn’s son, in 2004. Together, Wes and Gregg purchased Roadhouse & Rose in 2009.
“As the times change, Roadhouse & Rose has changed as well,” said Playter. “We try to be proactive in anticipating people’s needs as well as their bereavement needs.”
Today, Roadhouse & Rose offers full-service burial and cremation, including memorial, celebration of life, and graveside services.
As trends have shifted, they’ve provided more “modern” options and amenities, open to personalization.
Sometimes, this means changing décor to match the personality of the deceased: for the funeral of a biker, bringing in his beloved motorcycle; for the funeral of a painter, displaying their paintings around the room; for the funeral of a gardener, arranging beautiful plants and tried-and-true tools about the premises.
And with a business so steeped in the fabric and history of Newmarket — as you can see from the historic photographs displayed around the building — Roadhouse & Rose has also made it a priority to give back to the community that has supported them for so long.
As a business, they support a long list of local organizations and charities, including Bereaved Families of Ontario York Region, Doane House Hospice, Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation, and the Newmarket Veterans Association.
Playter himself has written seven coffee table books on various aspects of Newmarket history like hotels, schools and education, and transportation, with all proceeds collected through sales donated to charity.
“We’ve got a good team here, and we’re very involved in the community,” said Playter. "We keep involved as much as we can with different community groups and charities.”