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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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The tooth, the whole tooth, nothing but the tooth (or consequences)

Since that infamous day that Hurricane Irene paid us an unwelcome visit, our office has been gutted, disinfected three times, sprayed with an antimicrobial agent and wrapped in an impermeable membrane. Any future floodwater that might leak past gasketed flood doors will spill through floor grates into the crawl space that houses two sump pumps with generator backup power just in case the power grid fails. An addition has been constructed in order to house utilities above ground. All plumbing, wiring, insulation, floors, walls, doors and some windows have been replaced. Dental cabinets from Chicago, patient chairs from New Jersey and materials, supplies and small equipment were shipped from Massachusetts. Installation, hook-up and fine tuning were completed last week. As of Monday at 8 a.m., we are available with brand-new state-of-the-art equipment to provide for you better than the standard of care.

Thirty-nine years ago I rolled into Vermont with the dream to establish a country practice. After wandering throughout the state, I heard about a satellite practice in the Mad River Mill/Barn whose owner was searching for an associate. I tiptoed through the cow pies and there at the end of the barn was the last stall wrapped in shower curtains. (Remember, this was long before OSHA and CDC blood-borne pathogens rulings). I threw back the divider and there inside was a dental chair with X-ray head bolted to the wall. “Eureka”, I exclaimed. “This is it!” The rest, as they say, is history.

Back in the early 1970s, there were only destructive stiff-bristled toothbrushes available, but not one inch of floss to be found anywhere in town. After promising the local merchants lots of customers, they reluctantly agreed to carry oral health care products. I’d wager that miles of floss have passed between thousands of teeth since then. Have you brushed and flossed today?

With no experience, no money, and tens of thousands of dollars indebtedness, our local banks wouldn’t lend me working capital. So, with family loans, co-signatories, more debt, a vision and diploma, I planted roots. Valley Dental Associates began to grow.

Fast forward four decades Back to the Future. One doesn’t know what it holds in store for him or her. For me, the physical plant was flooded, but deep roots are resistant and persistent. Chapter One: designing, building and financing a dental facility.

It certainly would have been so much easier to take the insurance money and sail off into the sunset, but that tack hardly would have been as satisfying or rewarding as has been the last five months. It has been a genuine pleasure working side by side with each and every member of the crew while watching the project undergo metamorphosis from merely sketches on paper to a fully functional dental clinic. We enjoyed comparing the similarities between restoring buildings and teeth…same principals, physics and tools; different materials and scale, of course!

My worst experiences have involved working with government agencies – SBA and Vermont codes. In spite of filing my claim with FEMA within a week after the destruction, mountains of paperwork (some 20 years old), having to involve my brothers, five months of phone calls and loan approval three months ago, I’ve not yet received one penny from SBA. Very fortunately, I could tap into lines of credit; otherwise, 14 people would have been unemployed and the Mad River Valley wouldn’t have a dental clinic. I’ve contacted Bernie Sanders’ office about that agency’s exasperating red tape and its being worse than useless.

Although the building “worked” perfectly for 40 years, state inspectors insisted on replacing every inch of existing plumbing (approximately 2,500 feet) and wiring (almost a mile) to meet current codes. Cost is of no concern to them. One installation that was mandated was later proven to be not only unnecessary, but a health hazard; so it has been removed. Almost a thousand dollars was flushed down that drain.

Many of you have thanked me for rebuilding. Thank you, too, for the positive words of encouragement; and, you’re welcome. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I certainly did not and could not have done this alone. Alphabetically I owe a debt of gratitude to: Allen Lumber, American Dental Association, Annette, Belmont, Ben, Bill, Bisbee’s, Charlie, Charlie Jr., Chas, Clearwater, Cliff, Community Fund, Dottie, Doug, Dr. Bishko, Dr. Goslin, Dr. Herbert, Dr. Horan, Dr. Lansky, Eric, Eric, Eric, Fred, Grenier, Home Depot, Jack, Jackie, Jacob, Jan, Jesus, Jill, Jim, Jonathon, Josh, Justin, Karen, Keith, Laura, Lowes, Malcolm, Mary, Michael, Michael, New England Service Group, Nick, Nicom, Northfield Savings Bank, Parkey, Paul, Rich, Rich, Ron, SBA, Scott, Service Master, Sheila, Steve, Streeter Concrete, Susan, Susan, The Hyde Away, Tom, Tri State, Travis, Troy, Tyler, Valley Rent-All, VEDA, VG, Victoria, Vito, VSECU, Waitsfield Planning Commission, Waitsfield Telecom, Waitsfield town clerk.

Whew! These are the 76 people and companies with whom I’ve spoken directly. For those I’ve failed to mention, please accept my apology. Also note, there are so many anonymous helpers behind the scenes without whom this couldn’t have happened. Dentistry is extremely dependent on equipment, materials and supplies. Those in packaging, dispatching, shipping and trucking were instrumental in delivering the goods. Then there were all the engineers, chemists, manufacturers, and clinical and laboratory researchers, who analyzed, consolidated and formulated decades of evidence-based dentistry, clinical trials and other data. Universities and professors then taught us how to provide your dental care. Now, wrap your minds around the global effort required to obtain all the raw materials to produce this equipment and supplies. It had to be located, excavated, transported, processed, formed, shaped and manufactured. No doubt, several thousand people were involved in the complex process necessary to provide your dental care here in our tiny town. From all of us at Valley Dental Associates, thank you so much for your loyalty, patience and understanding. We look forward to seeing you soon.


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 496-2524.


Stephen Zonies, DMD


P.S. Note: There are several windows, doors, light fixtures and miscellaneous items available. Help yourselves! S. Z.



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