NAUGATUCK — Buckmiller Brothers sold its two funeral homes last week, bringing an end to nearly 80 years of family business.
The properties, including one in Prospect, have been sold to two different parties. Only the Naugatuck location at 82 Fairview Ave. will continue to be operated as a funeral home, while the funeral home at 26 Waterbury Road in Prospect will likely be redeveloped into retail space, according to new owners of the properties.
The funeral home in Prospect, which sits on 1.4 acres at the center of town, was sold to the Lombard Group, a Waterbury development company with ties to Prospect. John Lombard and Buckmiller owner Terry Buckmiller confirmed the property changed hands for $1.6 million.
Lombard said he will decide over the next couple of months whether the building will work as retail space or whether it will have to be demolished with new construction in its place.
“It’s not just a development project for me, its something I want to be proud of,” said Lombard, who grew up in Prospect and who is developing property nearby.
Lombard said he is expected to go before the Prospect Planning and Zoning with plans for the new property in the next few months.
Lombard is also working on a separate project with fellow developer Robert Oris of Oris Inc. to develop Parcel C, a 2.1-acre parcel on the corner of Maple and Water streets in Naugatuck.
Buckmiller Funeral home in Naugatuck will be called Buckmiller, Thurston and Mengacci Funeral Home. The property was purchased by husband and wife Jeffrey and Melissa Thurston and their partner James Mengacci.
Jeffrey Thurston said he has been a funeral director for 28 years and Mengacci, for about three decades. Both men grew up in Naugatuck. Mengacci is a former part owner of another funeral home in town, the Fitzgerald, Zembruski, Mengacci Funeral home, according to Thurston.
Thurston also owns the Rowe Funeral home in Litchfield. Thurston said he will continue at Rowe, while Mengacci will be “in charge for the day-to-day operations” at the new funeral home.
Thurston said they will maintain the name Buckmiller in the business to continue the name recognition and will continue to honor any pre-paid funerals Buckmiller has. The Thurstons and Mengacci plan to do interior upgrades to the building while operating it as a funeral home in the next coming months.
Terry Buckmiller, the sole owner of the Buckmiller Brothers Funeral home business, said he is retiring after 52 years in the business.
Buckmiller, who is 71, said it was time to start thinking about retirement. He said he quietly put the properties on the market several months back.
Buckmiller has been a family business for 80 years, starting in a storefront downtown and growing with a location in a former mansion in Naugatuck and a new building in Prospect, according to Terry Buckmiller.
Buckmiller Brothers made headlines in 2009 when two bodies were mistakenly swapped and the wrong woman was cremated. The woman’s family sued in 2012.
Terry Buckmiller said the incident did not affect the business, which did about 70 funeral calls a year in Prospect and about 120 in Naugatuck. He acknowledged the mistake in the body swap but elected to stay on and continue the family business.
“I’m glad I did,” Buckmiller said.
In Prospect, Buckmiller, which had been the only funeral home for nearly four decades, had competition for the first time when Prospect Memorial Funeral Home opened a few years ago.
Buckmiller expressed gratitude to Prospect residents for supporting his business.
“The people were fabulous. They were wonderful to Buckmillers,” he said.