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Christopher Mitchell acquires funeral homes in Albion, Holley and Middleport

Photo by Tom Rivers: David Mitchel and his son Josh are pictured by the Merrill-Grinnell funeral home in Albion at the corner of East State and Ingersoll streets. The property, the former home of Lt. Gov. Sanford Church, is one of Albion’s grandest homes.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 July 2018 at 6:11 pm

Merrill-Grinnell sites will be sold, while Christopher Mitchell will honor legacy of that business

ALBION – Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes has expanded its local presence by acquiring the Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Homes in Albion and Holley and also the Bates, Wallace & Heath Funeral Home in Middleport.

The sale closed Dec. 22 with David Mitchell, Christopher Mitchell’s owner, buying the three sites from Service Corporation International. SCI is based in Houston, Texas and owns about 1,500 funeral homes in 45 states, eight Canadian provinces and Puerto Rico.

Mitchell learned the three local properties were for sale last year and pursued an acquisition. The two Merrill-Grinnell sites will be sold while Bates, Wallace & Heath has already been upgraded. Christopher Mitchell’s four full-time funeral directors are serving the Middleport funeral home as well.

One of the Christopher Mitchell funeral directors, Scott Schmidt, is a Roy-Hart graduate from Middleport.

“Middleport will get to know all of us,” Mitchell said.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Landis: Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes has four full-time funeral directors, from left: Josh Mitchell, Scott Schmidt, Paula Fuller and David Mitchell.

Mitchell has worked 34 years as a funeral director while Paula Fuller has 24 years of experience, Scott Schmidt 21 years, and Mitchell’s son, Josh, six years. The younger Mitchell is the third generation to work as a funeral director. David’s father Rho was the first.

“I’m very blessed with the staff that I have,” Mitchell said. “And I feel very fortunate my son is with me. There aren’t too many third generation businesses.”

Christopher Mitchell and Merrill-Grinnell were long-time competitors in Albion and Holley. Christopher Mitchell has sites on Route 31 in both Albion and Holley. Mitchell said he has great respect for the Merrill-Grinnell history and will include the Merrill-Grinnell name on the Christopher Mitchell sign when the buildings are sold.

“Merrill-Grinnell did a lot of good in the community for many years,” Mitchell said. “We want to honor that longevity and legacy.”

Bates, Wallace & Heath will keep its name in Middleport. Christopher Mitchell has worked to update the site “from the ground up,” Mitchell said. It has completed masonry work, paint, new windows, HVAC, carpet and other upgrades – “a complete overhaul.”

There will be an open house in August for the community to see the improvements.

“Whether it’s for calling hours or a funeral service, you’re welcoming people into your home,” Mitchell said. “It’s service, service, service, the best that we can.”

Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes started in 1957, and has remained a locally owned business, donating many thousands of dollars to numerous local causes each year. Christopher Mitchell was recognized with a national “Pursuit of Excellence Award” from the National Funeral Directors Association in 2016. The association represents about 10,000 funeral homes.

Snell Realtors in Albion has listed the Merrill-Grinnell building in Albion for $219,900. The property is zoned commercial and is 5,511 square feet.

The Holley site at 39 Geddes St. is expected to be listed soon.

Mitchell said it doesn’t make sense for Christopher Mitchell to operate two funeral homes in the same small town. Until they are sold, both sites are available to be used for funerals.

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