Step into Zoot Pet Hospital in Georgetown, Texas, and you know you’re not visiting the average veterinary practice. The quintessential Texas hill country design, complete with native stone, galvanized steel, ample sunlight, and old fashioned porch swings, welcomes clients at first glance. The service- focused staff matches the charm found inside. And that’s exactly how Dr. Wayne Zeh and Jim Root, MBA, hoped the practice would be.
Friends since age 14, Dr. Zeh and Root had kept in touch through the years, Dr. Zeh practicing veterinary medicine and Root working at various executive sales and marketing positions around the country. When Root decided he’d had enough of corporate life, he found Dr. Zeh in a position to make a career move himself. Thus the dream for a luxury pet hospital and boarding facility was born.
When that dream became reality three years later, choosing a name was easy: Dr. Zeh and Root simply combined their last names and formed Zoot Pet Hospital + Luxury Boarding. Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition judges awarded the hospital a Merit Award for the eye-catching design, use of materials, and details throughout.
Seeking to serve
From the start, the owners say, they wanted to change the client experience, grounding their practice philosophy in their Christian faith and a desire to serve others. “We prayed from the beginning about whether to build this practice at all, and if so, how to do it, where to do it, and who to hire,” says Dr. Zeh. “We wanted to serve our clients and change the way they see veterinary care. Our building is one piece of that puzzle; our caring staff members are another.”
In keeping with that mindset, the owners sought to design a facility that would help them care for people to the utmost. For example, the practice features a relaxing front porch as well as a homelike lobby that includes a fireplace and a variety of comfy seating options: leather chairs, wood benches, and bistro tables. “Our clients are often worried and hurting when they come here,” Dr. Zeh says. “This building gives us a perfect opportunity to care for them as well as their pets.”
Hill country design
There’s no mistaking that this practice belongs in Texas. Nestled on four heavily wooded acres and featuring large grassy play meadows for boarders, Zoot Pet Hospital blends organically with its surroundings. The owners chose many local materials, including stone quarried locally in central Texas, for the exterior and several areas of the interior. A galvanized metal roof extends over the entryway and is reminiscent of high-end homes in the area. In fact, Dr. Zeh says, he’s always fantasized about having a home built in this style. But he’ll settle for the practice instead.
Twenty-eight foot ceilings featuring exposed Douglas fir trusses and large windows welcome clients into the lobby. Clients can enjoy complimentary Starbucks coffee while sitting by the fireplace. Cats watch the scene from above in their luxury cat condos, and a children’s play area completes the room. The Texas style continues throughout the facility, with exposed rafters, stone walls, stamped concrete floors, and plenty of windows throughout.
Completing the picture
Despite the comfortable nature of the practice, getting it built wasn’t easy. Everyone from the owners to the architects to the consultant on the project lived somewhere else. Dr. Zeh was practicing at his former clinic 45 minutes to the north until a month before completion, at which time he sold his share of the practice to the other owner. Root stayed with his corporate job at Frito Lay three hours north in Plano until just before opening.
The two owners held weekly conference calls with all the major players in the project and visited the site two to four times per month. Dr. Zeh focused on the clinical sections of the hospital and continued to practice medicine. Root tackled financing, designing the clinic website (zootpets.com) and first-year marketing plan, and he took the lead on designing the boarding facility. “I love running the business side,” Root says. “We split duties so Dr. Zeh could focus on clients and patients and not have to worry about sales, marketing, bills, and hiring and firing—at least for the most part. This division really gives us an advantage.”
In the end, the owners are thrilled with the outcome of their efforts. Dr. Zeh gives the glory to God for allowing them to have this practice at all and says he tries to give back as best as possible. “It’s not about us but about serving others,” he says. “We want our clients to know they’re cared for and to be a good influence on those around us.”
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