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New Location, Same Care - Veterinarians Seek More Space For Better Service
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Mel Tanner, DVM, of Family Veterinary Care of Oakdale stands alongside Practice Manager Chris Edwards as they tour their new West F Street location. Tanner and his staff will be relocating Olde Towne Vet Hospital to this new 3700 square foot location throughout the next few days. - photo by Teresa Hammond/The Leader

It has been over two decades since Mel Tanner, DVM, opened the doors of his South First Avenue Vet Hospital. The quaint and cozy Oakdale’s Olde Towne Vet Hospital situated in amongst unassuming little residences has become a refuge and comfort for many local pet owners.

A client list to the tune of 1200 strong has traveled in and out of the 2200-square foot quirky location, but now the new year will offer Tanner, his staff and clients new opportunity.

Beginning Thursday, Jan. 8 Olde Towne Vet Hospital will open its new doors to the public at 389 W. F St., in Oakdale. The well placed sign out front reads Family Veterinary Care of Oakdale, but what one will find on the inside remains the same.

Arguably the facility is bigger, at 3700 square feet with 14 onsite parking spaces, it’s remarkably bigger. The lobby area is spacious. There are now three exam rooms versus the two at the other location and an operating room which can host two surgeries at once, if so needed.

But this is not a ‘bigger is better’ move for Tanner and his team. This is a move in the name of patient efficiency and optimum pet care.

“We didn’t need it so much bigger,” Practice Manager, Chris Edwards said of the new location. “We still wanted it to be family oriented and family friendly. The larger space is allowing us more flexibility.

“We’ll be able to be more efficient than how we were. It’s not about being bigger, but being more efficient.”

Echoing Edwards’ thoughts, Tanner shared some of the obstacles and inefficiencies of practice in the former location. He cited an example of taking a swab sample from a pet, then traveling the length of the office to another location to view the swab under a microscope and then return back to the exam room. A fact, lost on the client as they sit waiting patiently in the exam room with their pet, but valid all the same.

In the new location one such example will allow the tech or vet to pop out of the room via a rear pocket door and be directly in the lab area.

“It’s not just a new facility, but a new practice style,” Tanner stated. “We plan to have extended hours, as well as hospitalizing animals. To make it safe for an animal who got ill in Oakdale to be cared for in Oakdale. We couldn’t do that in the other location.

“It’s better for the pet, better for the circumstance for the pet to stay here. It’s recognizing what people want and reacting to it. We don’t intend to provide emergency service, but if one of our clients has a circumstance we want to be able to care for them.”

In speaking with Tanner it becomes more than evident that he is a man doing what he loves for work, not a person managing a business and optimizing a business opportunity. If that were the case this project would have likely fizzled six years ago when he first recognized the need for change and perhaps found another zip code.

In total, Tanner and Edwards have been through five different buildings in the last six years. All in the name of providing a better facility for their clients and finally, September 2013 found them in the F Street location with contractor Tim Pitassi of Pitassi Construction.

“The project has taken a long time because of the way it came about,” Tanner shared. “Every time we’ve come against an obstacle, we’ve come over the obstacle and come out with something better.”

That won’t, however, translate into higher costs.

“We’ve frozen our fees,” he added, addressing client concern with an increase due to the new space. “The building will be funded by the increased efficiency. That’s exciting.”

Proving to have taken all factors into account, Tanner also touched on accessibility for clients with disabilities or wheelchair restrictions, noting that ADA lists minimal acceptable requirements. He and Edwards did one better and actually had a friend come through and wheel through the building to ‘test it all out.’ Larger restrooms, low counter height and not one, but two, accessible ramps now make the facility not only pet friendly but owner friendly as well.

“What we’re doing is exactly the same as it ever was,” Tanner said of the F Street address. “By staying there (South First), there was no room for growth. This (location) offers me the opportunity to do what I love until I stop working.”

It also offers the team an opportunity to once again team up with Oakdale’s Pet Shelter and once again facilitate spay and neuter for rescued animals.

“We’re facilitating the belief in shelter animals finding homes,” he said. “There is an opportunity for education in the way of spay/neuter there. Another thing we may now be able to do with the larger space.”

As for the name … Tanner recognizes and addresses the fact that some clients are having with the ‘change’ from the quaint little building with a cute name to the central F street one. Noting the obvious in the ease of parking and accessibility, he also shared his thoughts on the name via a letter sent to all clients.

“A name describes and also shapes a thing,” his letter states. “Our new facility has been freed of the constraints and obstacles that we faced at 144 S. First Ave. I wanted a name that would preserve the character of the practice so that it prospers in its new location. “Family” is the word that best describes how it feels at work on a good day. That goes double on the difficult days! “Family Veterinary Care of Oakdale” will preserve our focus on relationships that characterize healthy families. … is a name that will foster our goal of emphasizing trust, respect and service and furthering the work begun at Oakdale’s Olde Towne Veterinary Hospital.”

And as he looks to the first day of practice in the new facility, Tanner has just one word to sum up his thoughts going in.

“All gratitude,” he said. “I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. Doing it with people you love. Being able to do it with these people and having it all come together. Yeah … just gratitude.”