By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The new owners of the Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic consider themselves to be a hometown kind of business rather than a big corporate presence.
"Pipestone Veterinary Services is in the southwest corner of Minnesota in Pipestone, a small town of 4,500," said Hannah Walkes, a spokesperson for the clinic. "This is a veterinary clinic that has been in business for 50 years, started by a veterinarian who is still [in our] practice today."
They are a mixed animal practice, meaning they care for both small animals (like dogs and cats) as well as farm animals. It's the latter that sees their employees traveling the most. Walkes said the clinic has several top swine specialists who travel throughout five states. The work they do services about 300 family farms.
With all that traveling, Walkes said, there are times it's better for the doctors and the clients if the veterinarian can be based nearby.
"The two swine vets out of that office, as they provided more service in the Wapello County area, the more [Pipestone] began to think about putting down roots to service our clients better and provide them with more timely service," Walkes said. "It’s a move in a positive direction for everybody, employees and clients."
"The doctors and staff are the same friendly faces," said Dr. Lori Hickie, DVM in Ottumwa. "As far as the way we do things, I think you’ll see the things that can be improved will continue to improve."
Besides having clients in the Ottumwa area, there was a connection through one of the Pipestone owners who knew one of the Ottumwa Veterinary partners. Those two doctors respected one another and were able to reach an agreement. When asked if Pipestone was always looking to expand, Walkes explained that such a team-up is actually rare. In fact, after 50 years, they have only three locations: Ottumwa, Pipestone and Independence, Iowa, the town where one of their veterinarians resides.
"We like to have a presence and be involved in the communities we work with. We saw this as a perfect opportunity to partner with a clinic that was already established in Ottumwa," she said.
"Since we have taken ownership of the clinic, we hired another receptionist and a practice manager," said Walkes. "They were both Ottumwa people. We hope to have this [change] provide more jobs for the community. Pipestone Veterinary Services of Ottumwa. That the three great vets have continued small animals to offer out of that location. Expand, offering more grooming, improved kennel spaces and suites."
For now, Hickie said, prices are, for the most part, staying the same. Clients will see a new logo, she said, and their bill will look a little different.
Will they be closing that office and moving to a new one?
Both Hickie and Walkes said that hasn't been decided yet. Walkes did say the hope is to increase the number of services available by offering more grooming and improved kennel spaces.
The city of Ottumwa recently approved a new zoning classification for the clinic. Does the rezoning mean they’re going to move or perhaps build on to the existing building?
“We’re still weighing our options [based on] what will best serve our clients,” Walkes said.
For now, however, they are putting their efforts into the change of ownership.
Currently, Walkes said, there are a total of six animal doctors at the Ottumwa clinic. "Three of our veterinarians will continue to do swine work and three small animal. The predominant work done out of that office is still going to be small animal."
"I think this will allow us to improve the way we practice medicine and the services we offer," Hickie said.
The things clients respond well to, like having a doctor on call 24 hours a day, have remained the same, she added.
But, said Walkes, you may be seeing more of the staff from Pipestone Veterinary Clinic Ottumwa.
"In Pipestone, our owners are focused on being part of the community. We feel the stronger we make the community the stronger we make our organizations. We adopt a stretch of highway. We provide scholarships to [high school] seniors going to college, we have a Relay for Life team every year, donate to 4-H and individual employees volunteer [in the community]. After 50 years ... we feel we still have the same hometown local values people want when they desire care for their animal."
— To follow reporter Mark Newman on Twitter, see @CourierMark