Being in the business of smile-making, the staff at Lake Wylie Family Dentistry should know how to throw a party. And as August ends, they have reason to celebrate.
Dr. Thomas Stall purchased Lake Wylie Family Dentistry, then a satellite office of Dr. George Hook in Rock Hill, in August 1990. The three-room practice with four employees since grew into an office with three dentists, 15 treatment rooms and 25 full-time employees, and now celebrates 20 years of service.
“The area boomed,” Stall said of the biggest change in those 20 years. “It went from being so rural and quaint to almost cosmopolitan.”
Today Stall sees more traffic lights in Lake Wylie than there were between the lake and Charlotte all those years ago. He also recalls the early months of his practice when Stall thought he might be shipped overseas, as his family arrived just four days after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Stall spent time in Germany and Ft. Jackson in Columbia with the U.S. Army Dental Corps prior to bringing his family of four to the lake.
Stall ultimately did set his roots in Lake Wylie, joining the River Hills Lions Club and mentoring at Clover High School. He still serves as “tail-twister” for the club, a post of more than 10 years. Yet one of his finest assets to the community, at least in a professional sense, may be as recruiter.
By 1998 new patients had to wait for available appointments and the office at Heritage Park was “busting at the seams.” In December of the following year the practice moved to its current location at Village Harbor, also bringing on a new dentist, Dr. Stacy Waddell. Stall believes both he and the community were “very fortunate” to bring on Waddell, now Dr. Stacy Blackmon, and that “her presence in Lake Wylie has truly been a blessing to many people.”
“She’s just phenomenal,” said Janie Davis, executive director of Clover Area Assistance Center where Blackmon operates a free dental clinic. “She sets up shop in here and pops out 17 to 20 clients in one night, and she does everything.”
Blackmon sees about 90 clients in a month, Davis said, and plans are to grow the clinic and possibly add another dentist due to its success and overall need.
In late 2007 Stall again looked to grow the practice, this time bringing on Fort Mill native Dr. Andy Snell, who in December of that year returned to the area from Oklahoma. With him Snell brought training in Invisalign, mini dental implant procedures and numerous soft tissue laser techniques “previously unseen at Lake Wylie Family Dentistry,” Stall said.
Yet along with the changes, Stall credits the constant threads through 20 years of service with helping to keep his business growing. Employee Brenda Hogue preceded Stall at the practice, and still works there. She also recruited dental hygiene school classmate Alice Jennings 17 years ago. Jennings is still there, too.
Then, there are the patients.
David Drum, a recent college graduate, still returns to see Dr. Blackmon in Lake Wylie despite time living in Fort Mill and now Charlotte since growing up in Clover.
“My mom started going there and so she took me there,” he said. “I like it. They get you in and out really fast.”
For Stall, loyal patients are the key to his business staying open this long, and to continuing.
“Our patients are our sole reason for being here,” he said. “We owe them everything.”
This year the practice hopes to rebound from a dip in business similar to what other industries see in this economy. Stall said his work was down about 30 percent last year, mainly people opting to hold off on the cosmetic, “fun stuff.” The office also plans to makeover its own smile a little, with facelift work including new floors and phone system, as well as work one the outside of the building.
Stall thanks his community for allowing the business to grow, and hopes to keep the smiles coming well into the future.
“This area’s been really good to my family,” he said.