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Gallatin funeral homes battle over name

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Alexander Funeral Home & Cremation Center, planned at the corner of Nashville Pike and Tulip Poplar Drive, will not be affiliated with the owners of a separate Gallatin funeral home that previously operated at the location. JOSH CROSS

A new funeral home planned at the corner of Nashville Pike and Tulip Poplar Drive will be allowed to operate using the Alexander name despite concerns from the owner of a separate Gallatin funeral home who said he feels the name is deceptively similar to his business.

A request for a temporary injunction to prohibit Gallatin Memorial Gardens LLC from opening a new location at 584 Nashville Pike under the name Alexander Funeral Home & Cremation Center was denied Friday by Sumner County Chancellor Louis Oliver III.

Sellers of Sumner LLC, which owns Alexander Heritage Funeral Home in Gallatin and previously operated Alexander Funeral Home at the Nashville Pike property, argued the new funeral home's name was not only misleading, but that it also infringed upon its registered assumed business names with the state, according to the Aug. 17 filing.

However, Oliver ruled Friday the applicant failed to show "a strong likelihood of success on the merits and that clearly the parties that own the name intended for the name to stay with the property on Nashville Pike." He also added the two funeral home names were "dissimilar enough" as to not confuse the public.

For more than 50 years, Alexander Funeral Home operated at 584 Nashville Pike before it was closed in June and merged with Family Heritage Funeral Home on Albert Gallatin Avenue by owner Judd Sellars, who purchased the two locations in 2015. The name was later changed to Alexander Heritage Funeral Home.

Sellars testified Friday that Gallatin Memory Gardens' decision to open a funeral home in the same location using the Alexander name was "just a deceptive practice."

"It's a good way for a family to get confused during a very difficult time," said Sellars, who owns five funeral homes in Sumner, Wilson and Macon counties. "I've worked really hard for my reputation and I don't want it to be associated with (Gallatin Memory Gardens owner William) Gregory's reputation."

During the hearing, defense attorney Marty Cook argued that the only document presented to the court governing the Alexander Funeral Home name was the lease agreement Sellars had for the Nashville Pike property, "which granted it to the plaintiffs in this case on a very limited bases for as long as that lease was in place or as long as they operated in that location."

"That's gone, and the license they had from the state to use that name in that location is gone," Cook added.

A request by Gallatin Memory Gardens for the assumed names of Alexander Funeral Home and Alexander Funeral Home & Cremation Center were approved by the Tennessee Secretary of States' Office in August, according to the department's website.

Having two funeral homes with similar names under different ownership is not uncommon in the industry, testified Gregory, who added Alexander Funeral Home in Gallatin and Lafayette did not have the same owner for more than 20 years.

"They have the right (to use a similar name)," Gregory said. "I would not like it, but if I didn't do my homework to protect the name then it's my fault."

A sign for Alexander Funeral Home & Cremation Center was expected to be installed at the business' Nashville Pike location after this paper's deadline Wednesday.

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