Suffolk has a new funeral home

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Metropolitan Funeral Service invested more than $1 million into renovations of the old Division of Motor Vehicles office in Suffolk to ready its fourth location to open in Suffolk June 17.

The company also purchased the neighboring five acres of land along Moore and Finney streets for this latest expansion.

The business has been family- and friend-owned and operated since 1996, with three other locations – two in Norfolk and one in Portsmouth. Metropolitan celebrates 56 years of service June 27 .

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Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander has been Metropolitan’s president since 1992. Alexander obtained his funeral director and embalmers license in 1987 to begin working with his father, previous owner of Metropolitain. Alexander took over the business after the death of his father.

Metropolitan is a comprehensive one stop full service funeral service where they can arrange everything under one roof, Alexander said. Services include a homegoing service, floral arrangements, obituaries, memorials and memorial bookmarks, limousines, catering, prayer cards and arranging for the final disposition. Following the services, they also provide certificates, permits and insurance paperwork.

The business first expanded in 1999 to the corner area of Norfolk, where they then opened a new location in Berkeley in 2008. In 2010, the Portsmouth location became their third location. Their newest addition opened in Suffolk June 17.

When deciding on the location, there was pushback from the community about the size and area of the first proposed site, according to Brandon Randleman, Suffolk community advocate.

Randleman attended the city council meeting in 2015 and advocated for the old proposed location on Washington Street. His perspective for advocating was to be fair to Alexander after he agreed to make the changes the community asked, he said.

“I’m happy to see that the business has made its way into the community,” Randall said. “The funeral home has a reputable reputation throughout the Hampton Roads area. I hope that Kenny and his staff will contribute to the downtown Suffolk area and to other organizations”

Alexander later decided to change locations and decided on the Holladay Street location in hopes of seeing a spur in economic development after speaking with stakeholders and the community. He said he saw this happen at the Berkeley location.

“​​We are very involved in charities, in community engagement to help grow and support community charities, foundations and nonprofit,” Alexander said. “We’re very involved in all our locations in the community. We’re Community oriented.”

Metropolitan Funeral Services has three distinguishing qualities that differentiate them from other services, according to Alexander. The first is building investments and its visual appeal. Second is the professional staff, many of whom are licensed funeral directors. Third, he said, is innovation and technology. The funeral home offers filing of vital records electronically, live streams of services, designing of a website and electronic memorial tributes.

“We’re small enough to know you, large enough to serve you,” Alexander said.

Getting the new location up and running has been about five years in the making. Alexander obtained all the necessary permits such as zoning, building, occupancy, and approvals from inspections, city council and the planning commission. The city of Suffolk was great to deal with, he said.

The renovation process began shortly after acquiring approvals and during COVID-19. Many of the laborers called out of work, but they were “resilient” and “forged through it” to get to completion, according to Alexander.

All investments made were private, but Town Bank was a great partner, Alexander said.

Local contractors were hired, materials were purchased from local hardware stores, and they used local vendors for the project. Alexander plans to hire local residents to help manage the facility.

Many structural changes were made to the old building. Contractors did not use any existing plumbing, electrical, mechanical systems, flooring, ceiling, insulation or tile, Alexander he said.

“It’s actually a brand new building,” Alexander said. “What we ended up building was a brand new building.”

A meet and greet with an open house is planned for early July. Tours and information will be available along with refreshments and favors.

Metropolitan Funeral Services plans to  continue its expansion. A new location is expected to open in spring 2023 at Virginia Beach. Alexander does not plan on providing services outside of Virginia, but he and a few other staff members do hold licenses in North Carolina.