Danville firm to open funeral home in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — It's out with the antique rugs, pictures and furniture, and in with the caskets, urns and memorial services.

Danville-based Sunset Funeral Homes is leasing three-quarters of what was once The Estate Sale store at 710 N. Neil St., C, and plans to open a full-service funeral home there in two-to-three months, Sunset co-owner Rich Darby says.

Some minor remodeling will be needed inside, but the building and location are ideal for what Sunset has in mind, according to Darby.

"The outside of the building looks like a funeral home," he said. "It's well-decorated and in a central location."

Darby, who owns the Sunset funeral home chain with his sisters, Donna Walthall and Linda Sempsrott, said Sunset did a market study to see what the local community would want and found "Champaign-Urbana is very cremation-minded."

The new Sunset Funeral Home and Cremation Center Champaign-Urbana Chapel will be a full-service funeral home with a strong emphasis on contemporary, alternative-type services, he said.

And with the decor Sunset has in mind, it will be a "newer, contemporary, feel-good kind of place when you walk in," he said.

Think upscale hotel, with a lot of high-end audio and video equipment, such as several plasma screen TVs to play remembrance videos and sound equipment for the music used in services, he said.

But the funerals won't necessarily be high-end, Darby said.

"It's going to be a cost-effective solution for funerals, as well," he said.

Sunset plans to bring a line of "Simplicity" funeral plans for cost-conscious consumers to Champaign, he said.

Cremations will be done in Danville, Darby said.

And while the Champaign-Urbana market may be cremation-minded, "we definitely want to handle families that want burial services as well," he added.

This will be Sunset's seventh funeral home location. It has four others in Illinois, in Danville, Georgetown, Oakwood and Westville, one in Covington, Ind. and one in Sun City West, Ariz., Darby said. Sunset also has two cemeteries in Danville and Arizona.

In Champaign, Sunset will have a three-year lease on the former store building, and one owner, Walthall, will have her office there, Darby said.

It may be a leased building for now, he said, but Sunset is looking to expand and grow in Champaign.

"We don't come into an area and plan to pull out," he said. "We plan to stay there."

Building owner Robert Grossman opened The Estate Sale in that building — the former location of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District — in 2008, and the store operated at 219 N. Neil St., C, before that. His software business, Grossman & Associates, continues to occupy one-fourth of The Estate Sale's current building.

Grossman said Sunset approached him about the building. He's been busy and wasn't actively marketing the building, he said, and then in one week, he had three offers.

"I still have my office out in Savoy. We may move back to Savoy and rent this part out," he said. "We're pretty excited about this."

Grossman conducted a long going-out-business sale for The Estate Sale and closed the store around April 1, 2011, he said.

He plans to auction off the final 500 pieces of furniture, rugs and other items that are left in the building at 10 a.m. Saturday, he said.

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