New Chatham funeral home has no visitation suites and no chapel

A newly established Chatham funeral home is aiming to give families some lower-cost options for funerals.

Life Transitions aims to give families more affordable options for honouring their loved ones

Lee-Ann and James MacNeil have started a new funeral home in Chatham, Ont., that doesn't have a visitation room or a chapel. (Submitted)

A new business in Chatham, Ont., is aiming to give families more affordable choices for funerals.

It's called Life Transitions and it's not your typical funeral home.

Located in a strip mall, it has no visitation suites and no chapel. While the funeral home sells caskets and urns, clients can also supply their own.

James Mac Neil and his wife, Lee-Ann, run the business, which has been operating for just over two weeks.

He said the absence of these types of provisions is what allows Life Transitions to deliver more affordable funeral arrangements for its clients.

"Because of that overhead being greatly reduced, we've greatly reduced our prices comparatively," he told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive in an interview on Monday.

Mac Neil had been a funeral director for more than 15 years, until he ended up losing his job.

That created an opportunity for him to launch his own business, though Mac Neil said he had long seen a need for more choices in the funeral-service industry.

"Deep in the back of my mind and certainly in my heart, I've always had an inkling that folks are looking at different options than, say they were 25 years ago," said Mac Neil.

He said this includes greater demand for more personalized options when it comes to funerals, as well as lower-cost ones.

'A missing chunk of the bill'

Mac Neil said that his business can put a funeral together for about $4,000. That's about half of what he says "an average, traditional funeral" runs in Ontario.

He further said he has nothing against the types of traditional funeral homes that most people are familiar with. But he said they carry costs that his business does not.

"The traditional funeral home is in the model of having these large buildings with large taxes and on and on that needs to be recovered from somewhere, so all of that attached to the fees," he said.

"For us not having those charges there, there's just a missing chunk of the bill, I guess you'd say, for facilities."

Instead, Life Transitions looks at alternative venues to hold any needed services.

Mac Neil said that could, in theory, include churches, hockey arenas, or even private homes, depending on what seems appropriate for a given individual.

He acknowledges that Life Transitions won't be what every family wants for their loved ones.

But he said the business does provide families with a different choice than they might otherwise have to consider.

"We just kind of firmly believe that every family deserves a fair option," said Mac Neil.

So far, Life Transitions has yet to arrange a funeral for someone who has died. But Mac Neil said he and his wife have been working with people to pre-arrange those events for the future.

With files from the CBC's Tony Doucette and CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive