The increasing popularity of cremation as a funeral option is changing the generations-old business model for suburban funeral homes, some of which are preparing for changes to stay relevant.
For Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral and Cremation Services in Schaumburg, it was the fact that cremations exceeded half of all funeral services in the last year that led its owners to seek the ability to have cremation equipment on-site.
This attracted the attention of the business' nearest residential neighbors in Hoffman Estates, who nevertheless found a recent hearing before Schaumburg's zoning board to be "very informative," resident Linda Hayford said.
"You hear crematory and your ears perk up," Hayford said. "We were concerned about emissions. But the (zoning) board recognized us and let us ask questions. It was a very positive meeting. I believe the neighbors will continue monitoring the whole thing."
Schaumburg's zoning board recommended a zoning code change to allow funeral homes to apply for a special-use permit for cremation equipment. The village board will vote on that zoning change Tuesday, June 10.
There are currently only two funeral homes in the village, Community Planner Marisa Warneke said.
The village staff did a lot of research on the current state of the industry's equipment, as well as how other area municipalities have addressed the issue, Warneke said. But once permits start being sought, further research will be done into the particular equipment requested, she added.
Jim Ahlgrim, a fourth generation co-owner of the funeral home, said its cremation services are currently outsourced to an East Dundee business. But there are some ethnicities and religions whose customs call for family to be present at the start of cremation.
"There's a part of the community not being served," Ahlgrim said.
His message to officials and neighbors at the zoning board meeting was that there will be no noticeable changes to the business once the equipment is installed and in use.
"We're here to serve the community and not alienate it," Ahlgrim said. "We're certainly going to keep the equipment up to date. We will be thoroughly trained on the specific model that we'll have."