• 32°

Riles plans to open city’s seventh funeral home

[01/04/01] If a hearing before the Vicksburg Zoning Board of Appeals is favorable, Vicksburg stands to have a seventh funeral home, said Charles Riles, who will own and operate it.

Riles, former owner of Fisher-Riles Funeral Home, said Wednesday he wants to build a state-of-the-art funeral home on Indiana Avenue.

Riles, 54, was associated with Fisher Funeral Home from the time he was 14 until he bought it and later renamed it Fisher-Riles. He continued as a consultant with the the new owners of Fisher-Riles until September 1999.

The Zoning Board will consider his application a week from today. The 3.82-acre piece of undeveloped land adjacent to the new Memorial Fire Station on Indiana was zoned R-1 Single Family Residential after being annexed by Vicksburg in 1990. For a funeral home to operate, the zoning designation will need to be changed to CBR-4 Commercial, Business and Multifamily Residential. The new zoning allows offices, hospitals, medical centers and a number of other uses, said Eric Womack, zoning administrator.

Womack also said the tract of land just across Indiana Avenue occupied by Vicksburg Trace Haven is also zoned CBR-4.

Although the new business would put him in competition with a funeral home he owned until 1995, Riles said that is something he did not anticipate when the Loewen Group Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia, bought Fisher-Riles.

At the time, Loewen was described as the second-largest funeral home chain in North America, and it owned Wright & Ferguson and Baldwin-Lee funeral homes in Jackson, Reimann Funeral Home in Gulfport and funeral homes in nine other Mississippi cities.

In 1999, Loewen ran into financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and Canada.

“At that time, they cut off all payments to me,” Riles said. “In August 2000, they further cut back on funds and canceled my non-competitive agreement and my consultation agreement.”

Those moves, he said, opened the door for his planned return to the funeral business.

With the decision made to get back in the business, Riles said he began looking for a suitable location.

“I wanted something out, but still close in,” Riles said of his decision to look at the Indiana Avenue location.

Riles said he is planning a full-service funeral home with a chapel, two large visitation suites, a large home-like reception area and a large parking area.

“I feel like I can offer this community a personal, quality and affordable funeral service,” Riles said. “My personal philosophy is no one should be embarrassed or humiliated in the time of death because of finances.”

If the plans come to fruition, Riles has already picked a name for his new business.

“It will be Riles Funeral Home, as far as we know,” he said, adding, “I want to pick up where I left off five years ago.”

Other than Fisher-Riles, all other funeral homes in Vicksburg are locally owned. They include Glenwood, Robbins, Dillon-Chisley, Williams and Jefferson.