Families First converting former Veteran Plumbing building into reception centre

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross




Families First is embarking on a major expansion at its flagship Dougall Avenue funeral home that will help people celebrate the life of a loved one with an old-fashioned wake.

Owner Brian Parent says while some may call it a wake, he and his staff call it a reception — a get-together held after a funeral, when people can share a lunch or dinner, with the option of alcohol. Despite the large size of the existing Dougall facility built in 2005, the one reception area has limited space. So the plan — currently going through the approval process at city hall — is to convert the former Veteran Plumbing building directly to the south into a new reception centre that can accommodate several hundred people and be licensed to serve alcohol.

“We know families who’ve had really poor experiences having memorials in an open-type facility (like a regular bar), where the venue they were at had other patrons in it, doing other activities,” Parent said.

“In this particular facility, they’d be able to have these types of celebrations, with alcohol being served, without having to worry about other activities going on at the same time.”

Parent said ideally he’d like to start renovations this year and have them completed — with the required liquor licence — by the fall. The plan also calls for additional parking spaces and possibly a commercial plaza at the southern end of the Veteran property, which Families First bought several years ago. Adding the Veteran property to the existing site brings its total size to six acres.

While alcohol can be served at the existing building, Parent said it requires an individual event licence. He said that most of the funeral home’s customers are very traditional and spiritual. They ask for a full traditional funeral with visitation and either a church service or service at the funeral home.

“But everything today is changing,” he said, explaining that the home needs to be able to meet the unique requests from families.

Last year at its Lauzon Road location, a family asked for an outdoor reception with barbequed burgers and a real casual atmosphere, Parent said. 

“These are the things families are asking for,” he said, adding the new reception centre on Dougall will have an outdoor area for barbecues.

“It’ll be nice to accommodate those types of things.”