Small-practice warmth; big-time convenience

Small-practice warmth; big-time convenience

Apr 01, 2006

For 87 Years, Alexandria Veterinary Clinic PetCare Center in Alexandria, Minn., served large and small animal clients in a warm, homey atmosphere. Sure, the facility faced changes and a couple of facelifts along the way, including a remodel in 1983 and an addition in 1995. But in 2000, the six owners decided they'd run out of space.

They considered overhauling the old facility, but quickly realized it would They considered overhauling the old facility, but quickly realized it would cost too much to do everything they wanted to do. In the end, building a brand-new facility would give them a more perfect practice. Just one thing gave them pause.

Reception: Three seating alcoves, a fireplace, wood beam trusses, and a greeter's station instead of a check in and checkout desk help make clients' experiences pleasant.
"We needed room to grow, but we wanted to retain the homey atmosphere that the smaller clinic offered," says co-owner Dr. Mark Christenson. "It's hard to do that when you go from a small space to a much larger clinic, but that was our goal. We wanted our philosophy about developing warm relationships with clients to be what ruled our design."

The owners agree that the details made the difference in achieving this goal. A fireplace and greeters set the tone in the reception area. And log-cabin style trusses at the entryway set a theme that's repeated on the practice sign, in the reception area, on the benches, above the fireplace, and in the luxury boarding suites to develop a warm, log-cabin look and an image of a homey practice that caters to clients.

One year later, the doctors say they still have room to grow into their building, clients love the changes, and they continue to add new services. As a bonus, Alexandria Veterinary Clinic PetCare Center was chosen as a 2006 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award winner. Design competition judges lauded the practice for the high-quality appearance of the exterior and reception area, the use of a greeter station, the repeated log theme, and nice windows throughout for easy visual contact.

Teamwork personified

Alexandria Veterinary Clinic PetCare Center
Six co-owners, one practice manager, and numerous employees meant a lot of opinions about how a facility should be built. Luckily, everyone agreed on the big points and allowed a select committee to decide on smaller issues.

Early on, the owners chose three owners—Drs. Ledermann, Luckemeyer, and Christenson—and Renee Deitz, the practice manager, to lead a building committee. The committee met once a week over the course of the project to discuss their progress, make decisions, and figure out what steps to take next. The group took charge of hiring an architect, project manager, and interior designer, then acted as go-betweens for these professionals and the rest of the veterinary team.

"The committee made less-major decisions alone, and took larger decisions to the group to develop consensus," says co-owner Dr. Florian Ledermann. "We were lucky that the people we hired understood the process and the details so well, especially our designer, Mary Stedman, because six owners never could have agreed on such details without someone helping us see what was best for our practice. These people were fun to be around and that made the whole process much easier."