Reincarnated: The Second Lives of Shuttered Funeral Homes

Funeral Industry News October 13, 2020
Interior wall of former funeral home in Haunting in Connecticut movie

Reincarnated: The Second Lives of Shuttered Funeral Homes

Does your October horror movie lineup include the 2002 horror movie “A Haunting in Connecticut?” (Because it’s perfectly acceptable to binge watch scary movies in October.) In this classic, the family of a chronically ill boy moves to a new home to be closer to his medical provider. Eventually they discover an embalming room in their basement and conclude that their new abode is a former funeral home … which they believe explains the evil spirits that terrorize them night after night.

It’s inevitable that many funeral homes will eventually shutter their facilities, leaving the property available for a second life as a family home or business. We found a few former funeral homes that have been cleverly reincarnated — hopefully without the terrorizing evil spirits.

Undergrounds Coffee House and Roastery, Buffalo, NY

The “About” section of the Undergrounds Coffee House and Roastery website is full of fun funeral puns: co-owner Sara Heidinger “kept a skeleton in her closet” which was her desire to open a coffee house. She employed the services of a friend whose “caffeine-fueled experiences seemed just the thing to ‘urn’ her the position as Chief ‘Undertaker.’” When a local funeral home came up for sale, the website reads, along with a third partner who was “dying to give it a try,” the two “leapt from their graves” to buy the place. The owners have comprehensively embraced the location’s former existence as the Peter K. Leslie Funeral Home. They’ve decorated with a festive “Day of the Dead” theme and have commissioned a local artist to recreate images of inspiring deceased locals on a collection of mugs. No word yet as to whether their coffee is strong enough to wake the dead, though…

Folino’s Pizzaria, Burlington, VT

Let’s try to refrain from speculating that the former retort was converted into a pizza oven …

The owner of a popular pizzeria in Shelburne, Vermont found the perfect spot for a second location in neighboring Burlington: a vast space that formerly served as a funeral home and crematorium. Folino’s, which is known for its wood-fired (!) sourdough-crust pizza and BYOB policy, now shares the 5,000-square-foot facility with a bagel shop and a brewery. The building was formerly occupied by Corbin and Palmer Funeral Home, which now operates two locations in Shelburne and Essex Junction, Vermont.

Perplexodus Escape Room and Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, Johnson City, TN

Dinner and a show … and ghosts? Maybe not, but when your dinner theatre is a former funeral home abutting a cemetery, you just never know. Two sisters purchased the former Gray Funeral Home in Johnson City, Tennessee to house their growing mystery dinner theatre venture. Perplexodus Mystery Manor opened this spring, hosting sold-out shows in the 1927 building, which started out as a Baptist church. The owners had to relocate a brick chimney and an interior wall to make room for seating and a stage, but strived to retain the building’s ambiance and “original grandeur.”

Greene’s Cleaners, Napa, CA

Greene’s Cleaners, a longtime Napa Valley family business, moved into the former Richard Pierce Funeral Service location in 2012. The funeral home closed “abruptly” in 2009, leaving the 8,000-square-foot building to become bank-owned. According to a local newspaper, plans to turn the property into a wine-tasting bar fell through, and Greene’s, which has been in business since 1919, snapped up the facility as the new home for its cleaning operations.

The Mortuary Haunted Mansion and Event Venue, New Orleans, LA

Appropriately nestled between two cemeteries at the “very dead end” of Canal Street in New Orleans, The Mortuary is billed as “the only haunted house in Louisiana on multiple floors with REAL ghosts!” The historic three-story Victorian mansion was built in 1872 by Irish immigrants and operated for 85 years as a funeral home. P.J. McMahon and Sons Funeral Home was well-known in the district. As the first funeral business to own a hearse, they conducted the first “automobile funeral” in New Orleans and held an estimated 20,000 services in the building. In 2008, locals attempted to have the home added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the site’s claim to fame is as a “top haunted attraction” with “real ghosts” — as validated by ghost hunting shows on the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel. When not operating as a haunted house, The Mortuary is available for catered events. I mean, who wouldn’t want a Halloween-themed baby shower?

But wait … there’s more!

We also found the following funeral-home-to-commercial-enterprise resurrections (we’ll let you come up with your own puns):