When Caturia-Smidt Funeral Home and Wise Family Funeral Home merged last summer into Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel and started construction on a new building, Jesse Starkson and Michael Wise used the space as an opportunity to change the funeral home industry in Hastings.

In their previous spaces, Wise and Starkson were only able to accommodate small services and often made families leave the site if there was a reception after.

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In the new space, which opened in April, the funeral home has been able to host a visitation that had more than 500 people, Wise said. The largest sit-down reception that they have held hosted 350 people, Starkson said.

“Neither building was conducive to a reception space at all. Once the service is done here, we can just escort them into the reception space and everything is ready,” Wise said.

The Starkson Family facility features a large room that can be divided into two separate spaces, as well as an extra room with a catering kitchen for after a visitation.

Neither space had a crematory in the facility until the new building. When cremation services were required, Starkson and Wise had to use cremation services out of town. Now the facility has its own crematory.

“Having the crematory on site has been really, really nice,” Wise said. “Families’ loved ones never have to leave our care once they are here.”

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One of the biggest differences for Starkson and Wise, however, has been the technological advances they have made at the new building.

Not only does the facility feature state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment for displays during a service, it is also handy during the planning process.

“In our new space, everything is on the TVs,” Starkson said. “We have zero merchandise when it comes to caskets on display here. No headstones, no markers, no nothing.”

With the new technology, a family is able to pick a casket or urn with the exact wood and interior that they desire, and Starkson Family will have it shipped to the facility in 24 hours.

“I think that room can be intimidating for people. This is a much softer, easy setting for them to choose caskets,” Starkson said.

To add even more customization to the process, Starkson added, they hired an independent graphic designer to help with the memorial folders that are made for services.

“There is no cookie cutter approach to selecting anything,” Starkson said.

Starkson and Wise have also recently launched a service aimed to making the cremation process simple and easy for family members — affordablemncremation.com.

The new website allows people to provide all the information needed for a death certificate for their loved ones and arrange a basic cremation.

“So, say someone isn’t looking for any types of services. In 10 minutes, they can complete from step one to everything being submitted for supplying the information of their loved one that we would need for a death certificate,” Starkson said.

Wise added that it is a great alternative for people who might be intimidated with funeral homes or the process of planning.

“It’s a very safe way for them to navigate through it. It’s really easy,” Wise said.

Starkson Family Life Celebration Chapel is located at 3075 Vermillion St. They can be reached by phone at 651-437-9419 or online at hastingsmnfuneral.com.