Bay Street Animal Hospital
In addition to the great view of Manhattan, Staten Island offers a close-knit community of ethnically diverse, working class neighborhoods. There are also two pets per home for the 350,000 homes on Staten Island. In finding medical services for these animals, smaller animal hospitals traditionally closed at dinner time and refer after-hours cases to New Jersey, Brooklyn or Manhattan; in emergency cases, extended travel time could negatively impact the chances of successful treatment.
Bay Street Animal Hospital, the largest full-service animal hospital on Staten Island, wanted to expand its building and its operating hours to provide emergency and routine services on nights and weekends.
With more than 65 years of combined experience, business partners Dr. Theresa Cavallaro, a native of Staten Island, and Dr. Robert Cohen perform diverse services including surgery, dentistry, intensive care and ophthalmology in the course of a single day. Dr. Cavallaro is one of the few female veterinarians who co-owns and operates her own veterinary business.
“Many small entrepreneurial businesses find it difficult if not impossible to secure financing from traditional lending institutions,” said Dave Hanold, NYBDC assistant vice president. “When we reviewed Drs. Cohen and Cavallaro’s business history and expansion plans, we knew that this was going to be a great project. We look to develop relationships with our borrowers and more importantly, to understand the nature of their characters. They showed us that they had built Bay Street Animal Hospital into a successful operation and we were enthusiastic about helping it expand.”
With a $300,000 loan for leasehold improvements, equipment and working capital, Bay Street Animal Hospital was poised to offer full medical, grooming and daycare/boarding services 24 hours a day/seven days a week. They had doubled their space, grown from four to six veterinarians and almost doubled the number of employees.
Construction had been completed for only two weeks when Superstorm Sandy hit.
While the storm howled around them, the Bay Street Animal Hospital staff continued to tend to their patients. It was only when the water reached their doorstep that they evacuated their patients to higher ground. In spite of the roof being destroyed and two feet of water in the waiting room, Bay Street Animal Hospital would rally.
“Dave from NYBDC was the first call we received, not the insurance company,” said Dr. Cohen. “It wasn’t just rhetoric. NYBDC believed in us for the initial project and then helped us to secure a grant to rebuild from the storm damage. Our renovations were destroyed but not our spirit. Dave even made arrangements to help adjust the re-payment schedule for the original loan. Everyone pulled together and we were able to open three days after Sandy on a limited basis. Without that empathy and financial support, I don’t know how we would have done it.”
“When Hurricane Sandy hit and damaged the construction that we had helped fund, we made sure that (Bay Street Animal Hospital) was able to access the Relief Loan Program we administered on behalf of New York City,” said Hanold.
“We now have three connected but independent state-of-the-art pet handling spaces that help to limit noise and separate air handling systems so that the medical patients are completely separated from the grooming and boarding services. Animal hospitals should never smell like…an animal hospital,” said Dr. Cavallaro. “By offering everything under one roof, we’re able to provide a comfortable and comforting facility for our existing clients and have the benefit of a one-stop shop convenience to attract new clients. Our hotel and pet grooming areas keep our clients coming back to us for all of their pet’s needs. We’ve been able to have a little decorating fun, creating a sort of ‘destination hotel’for our boarding clients with rooms themed to Paris, Venice, Egypt, and Waikiki…we even have a Presidential suite.”
It took nine months to get back to pre-Sandy conditions, but Bay Street Animal Hospital is open and thriving. Revenues are upwards of $4 million (more than 10% higher than last year) and more than 12,000 pets are cared for annually.