Once upon a leasehold

Once upon a leasehold

Sep 19, 2007

The early stages of simi valley animal hospital's existence were no fairy tale. Dr. Jennifer Stirewalt and her husband, Brandon, chose a leasehold space because it was their last option. At first, they were wary of leaseholds. "You're putting so much money and effort into a place you don't own, which you'll walk away from someday," says Brandon. "But owning a building has other headaches."

The couple's advice? If you're picking a leasehold, push your budget to the limits. "Go as big as you can afford because you'll definitely run out of space," Brandon says. The husband and wife team is already looking to expand. In November they're taking over another 1,500 square feet next door and then they'll have the option of annexing even more.

In the beginning

A look at the numbers
The two began their quest by looking for existing practices for sale—but they couldn't find anything that suited their needs. So they decided to look for a piece of property on which they could build a freestanding facility. That also proved to be a difficult search. The couple just couldn't find the perfect piece of land. Some plots the Stirewalts looked at were polluted, and the couple didn't want to spend the money to decontaminate the land before building on it. Another downside of shopping for land in Simi Valley: There's not a lot of it at an affordable price. So the couple turned their eyes to leaseholds—and eventually found their happy ending.

Exam room: The three exam rooms sit directly off the lobby for easy client access. The countertops are ergonomically designed in a peninsula shape with two heights. One of the exam rooms is oversized and functions as both a specialty consultation and ultrasound room.
The Stirewalts chose a prime location in an existing shopping center. Simi Valley Animal Hospital sits along Los Angeles Boulevard—a main thoroughfare in the city. The shopping center they chose also lies in the heart of Simi Valley's commercial shopping district. To top it off, the location offered a prime spot to show off the facility's beautiful storefront.

Cat ward: Drawers below and cabinets above the stainless steel cages provide extra storage for odds and ends.
They removed the standard painted aluminum mullion and glass storefront and installed a floor-to-ceiling, butt-glazed frameless structural glass wall instead. This feature lets natural light pour into the hospital—something leaseholds sometimes lack—and showcases the lobby's high-end design, snagging the interest of passersby. But it wasn't all sunshine and roses at first.

There was some intense negotiating between the Stirewalts and the landlord when they were working out the details of the lease. A good attorney helped the couple out and, for the most part, took on the stressful job of negotiating for them. "I told him what we were looking for and he did the back-and-forth for us," Brandon says. "He made sure we got what we wanted in the lease."