Out of the woods

Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic in upstate New York achieves a mountain lodge look with earthy colors, natural materials, and wide-open indoor spaces.
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Dec 01, 2008

The owners of Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic in Ballston Spa, N.Y., won a 2008 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award with their brand-new, 9,554-square-foot veterinary facility. But the way they tell it, they should've won an award long ago for the highest production in the smallest space.


Natural look: Set in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic fits in nicely with its environment. Earthy colors and materials give it the lodge feel the owners wanted. The facility sits on a high-visibility corner lot.
Drs. Eric Andersen and Danica Salamun, a husband-and-wife team, bought Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic not long after graduating from veterinary school in 1996 and 1998, respectively. After working for a short time in separate practices in Oregon, they'd moved east to be closer to family and immediately began asking about practices for sale. "We met the owner of this practice on our first trip," Dr. Andersen says. "A year later, we closed the deal."


Rehabilitation room: This room is dedicated space for the underwater treadmill. The rest of the rehabilitation work for patients is done on the treatment area floor.
The only kink? Their "new" practice was located in a 1,200-square-foot facility built in 1932. "We were a very busy three-doctor practice with just two exam rooms," he says. In fact, the practice had no reception area. "Clients would walk in and sign their name in a book, then wait in line," says Dr. Andersen. "It was a very antiquated system, and we needed a change."

'Pay-as-you-go' goes well


Exercise room: People get exercise, too, at this clinic. There's no underwater treadmill, but there is other equipment to help employees burn off stress.
A mile and a half away sat a corner lot with high visibility—something Drs. Andersen and Salamun's facility lacked. However, they needed to purchase the two adjacent properties from separate owners to make a lot big enough for a veterinary practice.


A look at the numbers
Financially, Drs. Andersen and Salamun were in a good place. Their rent at the time was just $1,500 a month; with only six people on staff and a large clientele, overhead was low and production was high. But the couple still couldn't afford to put 20 percent down on the new facility all at once. Fortunately, the bank offered them a pay-as-you-go plan. The doctors worked hard to keep their production high and paid 20 percent of each building phase along the way. "All the money we generated during the building process went directly to our down payment," Dr. Salamun says.


Floor Plan: Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic
The doctors made time to visit the practice in progress at least twice a day. But they always made sure these trips to the construction site were first thing in the morning, at lunch, or after hours so as to not interfere with client hours. Dr. Andersen made most of these trips in the beginning, while the basics were being hammered out. Dr. Salamun's time to shine came later, when she helped make many of the décor decisions.