Former Perkins to be converted to funeral home

(Patrick Larkin/Review)

Ho Ho Gourmet fears it will ruin business

The building that once housed a Perkins Restaurant on Old Hudson Road will undergo a substantial renovation -- after all, it takes a lot in order to change a chain diner into a funeral home.

And while the filling of a vacant building comes as good news to some, the building’s next door neighbor, Ho Ho Gourmet, is concerned it may sink its business.

The Cremation Society of Minnesota closed on the purchase of the building last week.

Betsy Leach, director of the District 1 Community Council where the building lies, said filling a vacant building with a business is beneficial for the neighborhood.

“From our perspective, it’s a good thing,” she said. “It brings some diversity to the types of businesses we have here.”

Kevin Waterson, president of the Cremation Society of Minnesota, said the organization has “been looking in St. Paul for years” to add a new location.

The organization already serves residents in St. Paul, but doesn’t have a physical location in the city. Instead, it serves St. Paul residents out of other locations in Minneapolis, Edina, Brooklyn Park and Duluth.

The new location, he said, “will be much more convenient for people.”

The company will not do cremations in the building, but instead it will be a space for reception rooms and a chapel.

Leach suspected that many area businesses would appreciate the potential business it could bring to the Sun-Ray commercial district. But she did express concern that not all the businesses were happy about the funeral home coming in.

Asian restaurant concerned

Ho Ho Gourmet is next door to the new funeral home site, and manager Kaling Wong said her business is worried about potential loss of customers.

She said that staff and management are concerned that, due to cultural differences, Asian customers will be turned off by the restaurant’s proximity to a funeral home.

It’s a faux pas in her culture, she explained, to put a place associated with death such as a mortuary next to a restaurant.

“They really could put us out of business,” she said.

Wong did say that it was possible the funeral parlor could draw some new customers to the restaurant, but said she worried it would turn others away.

Doug Swalboski, owner of the Culver’s on Old Hudson Road, had a more optimistic outlook.

“I’m glad to see that any vacant building is occupied,” he said. “I’m glad to see that it finally is going to be renovated.”

He also expressed relief that it’s not another restaurant going in.

“I’d just love to have a variety of different businesses in the area,” he said. He speculated that it could drum up additional customers, from folks outside of the neighborhood being drawn to the area for a funeral service. The business already gets customers who are traveling along Interstate 94 on their way to funerals and wakes, he said.

Renovation plans

Waterson said renovating the old restaurant building will mean gutting much of the inside, and doing a substantial exterior renovation.

Once finished, there will be brick and siding on the outside with a carport, brick molding along the edges, and wood or stucco siding, he said.

Waterson said the Cremation Society is hoping to be open Aug. 1, but a lot remains to be seen.

He said the location was appealing due to its proximity to Interstate 94, which makes for good visibility.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

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