Royal OakAugust 15, 2012
Royal Oak’s oldest business adds Oakland County’s first non-denominational chapel
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — When you’re the oldest business in town, you have to keep with the times to stay relevant.
That was the thinking of John Sullivan, one of the six co-owners of Wm. Sullivan & Son Funeral Directors, 705 W. 11 Mile. The family-owned and operated business opened its doors in 1906 on Main Street, but has been at the current site since 1939. In two weeks, the funeral home expects to complete renovations — the first since 1991 – on a new 145-seat chapel along the west side of the building.
“You can’t stand still in business today,” Sullivan said. “It’s really unique to Oakland County to have a chapel like this. Half the people we serve today don’t have any church affiliation.”
Sullivan said the chapel would be the second of its kind in the county, but it would be the only non-denominational one since the other is at a Jewish chapel in Farmington Hills.
Along with the additional space and a 30-foot-long copper skylight at the apex of the vaulted ceilings, the new chapel will feature a 65-inch television with Skype capabilities and a new sound system.
“That’s really going to be first class,” said Michael Lope, the only fourth-generation co-owner and Sullivan’s nephew. “It will be used in the chapel for funeral services. We’d play a three-minute feature of the person’s life. It’s just kind of a forward-thinking thing. We’ve been here for so long, we want to make sure the next generation (knows about us).”
Lope said the addition is being done by the same architect — Silveri Architects of Ferndale — that did the front lobby renovation in 1991, allowing the same design and material types to be used.
“They’ve been real good,” Lope said. “The architect and builders had everything lined up before they started. We haven’t lost any business because of it.”
The new chapel also bears resemblance to the Sullivan venue in Utica, which was built in 1969.
“We actually have a similar chapel in our Utica office, and it’s worked out so well out there,” Lope said. “It’s similar, but definitely not the same. That one was built from the ground up as an addition. This one we wanted to keep the look and the feel of the funeral home.”
With a Gallup study showing that 43 percent of Americans do not belong to a church or do not attend church regularly, the Sullivan family felt it was an important step to increase the space for secular funeral services.
“You give people the opportunity right in the building,” Lope said. “As far as the church is concerned, you can’t have a full Mass. You can have a Catholic funeral service or (non-denominational) service.”
For more information on Sullivan’s funeral services, including a price list, visit www.sullivanfh.com or call (248) 541-7000.
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