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Building business one smile at a time

Dr. Phil Priebe and Dr. Derek Priebe officially set up shop in their sparkling, new South Anchorage offices six months ago, but are still getting familiar with the unexplored business opportunities associated with the surroundings.

“We didn’t have our phone numbers posted on the door until just a few weeks ago,” Derek Priebe said.

The front entrance for Priebe Dental and Priebe Orthodontics, PC

Priebe Dental and Priebe Orthodontics, PC, a joint venture between father Phil and son Derek, is located near the corner of O’Malley Road and the Old Seward Highway in The Shops at O’Malley Centre. The well-trafficked retail facility resplendent with a popular restaurant as well as a coffee house opened in April 2009. It was designed with an eye toward serving South Anchorage and Hillside residents, perceived as an underserved niche in the state’s largest city.

“I go to the gym nearby and I watched them build this structure,” Derek said. “I kept thinking, ‘That’s a good location. Man, it’s going to be expensive. That’s a good location. Man, it’s going to be expensive.’

“I called our real estate agent and about 20 minutes later we had crossed the Rubicon.”

The Priebes’ point of no return also meant placing a call to First National Bank Alaska.

Phil, a general dental practitioner, first started doing business with the locally-owned bank when he opened his practice on Anchorage’s eastside in 1974.

“I also hitched my wagon to the bank when I first got started,” said Derek, who’s been practicing orthodontia in Alaska since 2002. “It’s a big advantage when you know you’ll deal with people locally.

“First National’s people know the community and the people in it as well as you do.”

From working with a local First National Corporate Loan Officer to gaining the ear of bank Chairman and President D.H. Cuddy, the Priebes found securing financing for the project — estimated at a cost of a little more than $1 million — a rewarding, trouble-free experience.

Phil, his wife Mary, and Derek started in August 2009 piecing together plans for what belonged in the facility and what it might look like. They met with dental consultants and manufacturers and building contractors. They wanted nice, but not extravagant.

“If you spend too much, patients and customers start thinking that’s why this or that costs as much as it does,” Derek said. “But we’ve received nothing but glowing reports.”

CAPTURE SOME EFFICIENCIES

First-time visitors to the Priebes’ new offices are welcomed by a pair of eye-catching signs above the doors. To the left, “Priebe Dental” stands out in bright red. To the right, “Priebe Orthodontics, PC” illuminates in royal blue.

Walk in the front entrance of the nearly 3,200-square foot office and as you’re greeted by a member of the staff, you’ll quickly notice the warm earth tone colors, a palette of greens, whites, oranges and some reds. The reception area includes leather couches and chairs, a faux fireplace heater and large flat-screen television usually showing a Disney DVD.

Phil and Derek run separate practices, but share the costs. Venture to the left side of the reception area and you find Phil’s uniquely-patterned treatment stations. The four patient chairs are surrounded by top-of-the-line equipment, much of it stored in custom-made cabinets so it’s out of sight when not being used.

The treatment stations are set up to allow for easy movement for Phil, his hygienist or other assistants.

Derek’s work space consumes the right side of the facility. His treatment stations are more wide open, each equipped with a computer monitor and the newest technology. One of the nicest amenities is the dual sinks near the front of the building. The sinks lay low so children have easier access to the built-in toothbrush and dental floss dispensers.

The doctors each have their own private offices. The facility includes an upstairs – a late addition – that features a kitchen, more offices and storage for staff members’ personal belongings. Phil and Derek have the cost-effective luxury of sharing X-ray and radiation equipment and the state of the art laboratory, centered between the treatment stations.

“We were able to capture some efficiencies,” Derek said. “Dentists all go around and build their own little hospitals. We’re able to split those costs.”

NO MORE “TWISTER”

The Priebes took slightly different approaches to building one office for the family’s two practices.

Derek looked for an upgrade and a little more room to maneuver from his previous office space.

“Being in a smaller place was a little like playing a game of ‘Twister’ – right hand red, left hand green. It was pretty antiquated,” he said.

Phil admits he should be thinking about retirement. He opened his practice in East Anchorage four decades ago. But he was hooked by the adventurous nature of it all — a new building constructed with his input and chance to work alongside his son.

“I think it’s very unique,” he said. “(Wife) Mary asked if Derek went in, would I go in.”

The family also knew they could count on First National Bank Alaska for financial along the way.

“There is a certain amount of loyalty involved,” Phil said. “Over the years, we watched the bank become very successful. When we’ve needed a loan, it’s always been possible and we haven’t had to jump through any hoops.

“We’ve been clients all these years and are very comfortable with the bank. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

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