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Altmeyer reopens funeral home on Church Street

The renovated chapel at the former Shepherd funeral home includes large video screens, new lighting and new art. The renovated chapel at the former Shepherd funeral home includes large video screens, new lighting and new art.

James E. “Jimmy” Altmeyer Jr. led a tour recently of the newly renovated Thos. Shepherd & Son Funeral Home, which looks the same outside but boasts a makeover and new amenities inside.

Throughout, there’s new flooring and lighting, fresh paint, a new kitchen, new reception and visitation rooms and new bathrooms. The chapel has been updated for the digital age.

“We put in TVs so we can play videos because nowadays a lot of people like videos,” he said. “So we have two TVs to show video tributes for families.”

Altmeyer bought the Church Street funeral home last May when he bid $2,025,000 in a foreclosure sale on the courthouse steps, the final chapter in a years’ long collapse of the company founded in 1903. The state Board of Funeral Service revoked the funeral director’s license of Tom Shepherd in December 2021 after an investigation into consumer complaints and funeral practice violations dating back to 2018. Shepherd died of severe depression a few weeks after the state issued the final order closing the business founded by his grandfather. Shepherd Memorial Park, which like the funeral home had been the subject of numerous consumer complaints, is under receivership and operated by a court-appointed manager.

James E. "Jimmy" Altmeyer Jr.James E. "Jimmy" Altmeyer Jr.Altmeyer leads the company his great-grandfather founded in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1917. Altmeyer Funeral Homes and Crematory owns more than 40 funeral homes on the East Coast, including Shuler and Forest Lawn  in Hendersonville and Mountain View Cremation & Funeral Care in Arden.

Under the new ownership, the business will be known as Church Street Funeral & Cremation — unless Melody Shepherd, Tom Shepherd’s widow, agrees to sell the name.

“We had to come up with a new logo,” Altmeyer said. “I was hoping that we would be able to work it out to call it the Shepherd Funeral Home and we just haven’t been able to do that. Maybe one day we’ll be able to work something out.”

More space for visitation

With the rise of online shopping, funeral homes have found that they can devote less space to coffin displays, meaning more space can be set aside for reception and visitation.

“We don’t have a room full of 30 or 40 caskets like they used to have here,” Altmeyer said. “We did in most of our funeral homes.”

A new catering kitchen has refrigerators, a freezer and icemaker, dishwasher, range and  oven.

“So people can bring in food and then serve it out here and have a reception. So if somebody is cremated and the family wants to have a life celebration in the chapel and then have a reception, they can do it over here,” he said.

The family can provide food or bring in a caterer. The funeral home will have a relationship with a caterer if the grieving family wants to let Church Street handle everything.

The interior has a brighter look, too.

“All the lighting is new because all these lights were really dim. It was very dark,” Altmeyer said as he entered the chapel. “Nowadays people don’t want dark. You come into a funeral home, you’re already depressed because the person died, and then the last thing you need is to come in and be dark and gloomy.”

Altmeyer is still hoping to negotiate with Shepherd to buy the northern-most part of the parking lot, which is on a separate parcel and was not included in the foreclosure sale. For now, Shepherd funeral home hearses and vans are parked on the lot.


400 preneed contracts

The N.C. Board of Funeral Service sent letters to the 400 or so holders of preneed contracts early last year. Now that renovations are done, families will soon hear from the new owners. The funeral directors will tell preneed contract holders: “We’ve been able to reestablish downtown as Church Street Funeral & Cremation, and if you’d like to use the downtown facility, we’d be honored to serve you there,” Altmeyer said.

Under state law, families can choose any funeral home they would like, including one outside the three Altmeyer owns here.

“They can go to anybody they want,” he said. “We want the people who are pre-arranged here to come here because when they see how nice it is — this is by far and away the nicest funeral home in Henderson County. There’s just nothing like this.”

Altmeyer is not giving up on retaining the Shepherd name. After all, until the downfall of the business, Thos. Shepherd & Son Funeral Directors provided more than a century of respected service.

“This funeral home is a tradition for a lot of people for 120 years and if she would give us the privilege and the opportunity to work with her, we would do an outstanding job, carry on the Shepherd name. We really look forward to the opportunity to work things out with her if she would consider that,” he said. “That’s my hope. And maybe she will. You never know. In lieu of that, the only thing that we can do right now is pick a different name.”

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For more information or to arrange a tour of the renovated facility visit or call 828-309-0103.