Funerals on The Cheap?

August 28, 2009
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image O’FALLON, ILL — A veteran of the mortuary business plans to open a new funeral home that he said will lay to rest people’s fears about the high cost of burial or cremation. Joseph Kalmer, former owner of the Pletcher Funeral Home in Edwardsville, said it typically costs $7,000-$8,000 to lay a loved one to rest and $2,000-$2,500 to have them cremated. But the trend in end of life services is going with smaller services with less overhead. “My new business is called Practical Funeral Home and Cremations, and that’s a pretty good description of what we do,” Kalmer said. “We can do the same funeral service for closer to $4,000-$5,000 and cremations in the $1,000 range by keeping our costs down.”

Kalmer said he doesn’t plan to carry a big inventory of caskets like larger funeral homes. Instead, they’ll be chosen out of a brochure to eliminate the cost of keeping them on hand. His chapel will only serve a maximum of about 25 people. Anything larger will be at a church or larger facility, which further cuts cost by not requiring investment in a much larger building.

The new funeral home is to be at 8638 East Highway 50 near the road’s intersection with Memory Lane, the former site of Wilson Siding. Ward 3 Alderman Rick Reckamp said he doesn’t like the site. He thinks it’s too dangerous for older drivers to get in and out onto the highway.

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“That piece of property has very difficult access to Highway 50,” Reckamp said. “While a siding company would do most of its business during the day, a funeral home is going to do most of its business at night. It looks like a life-threatening situation.”

Police Chief John Betten said he checked out the site and found it doesn’t seem to be any more dangerous there than other parts of Highway 50.

“Is the number of accidents excessive there? No,” Betten said. “There are other sections of 50 that have higher accident counts. That stretch of the road is fairly straight.”

Mayor Gary Graham said, while it is sometimes challenging to get on Highway 50, the city government doesn’t have the right to block a business from opening along the road.

“I think he knows more about how he spends his money than I do,” Graham said of Kalmer. “And he thinks this is a good place to open his business.”

Neighbors originally expressed some concern about Kalmer’s plans to use Memory Lane as an access road to his parking lot. But he said it wasn’t needed if the city granted him a variance that lowered the amount of parking spaces he had to provide from 35 to 34. Because he won’t host large crowds at the site, neighbors dropped their objection and the variance was granted with only Reckamp voting against it.

Graham said he is thankful Kalmer wants to open up in a shuttered store that, according to real estate agent Terry Johnson, has been on the market for about four years.

Kalmer said he plans to start renovations of his building this week.

Source: BND.com

Article By: Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or 239-2626.

Photo: Joe Kalmer outside of the future Practical Funeral Home and Cremations located at 8638 E. Highway 50. – Derik Holtmann/BND

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