Tell our readers about your business. How did it begin?
I grew up in Forestdale, just a few minutes west of Gardendale. We frequently visited Gardendale, often grabbing a blizzard at Dairy Queen or shopping at Goody’s! Gardendale was the location of my first home purchase after graduating from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004. My dream was to own a small animal veterinary practice in the community I called home. After 2 years as an associate in another town, I was ready to pursue that dream. I sought the advice of my childhood pet veterinarian, Dr. Tom Fuqua. Coincidentally, he was also contemplating a new practice in Gardendale, so we embarked on a joint venture. Mercy Animal Hospital opened in 2007 and within a year we realized another veterinarian was needed in the practice. It was important to me to have someone with a long term interest in our practice since we were still so new. Dr. Brandon McKim, a colleague from my former practice fit the bill perfectly. He immediately embraced the idea and became my business partner in 2009.
What has been important to your success since your opened Mercy Animal Clinic?
Many factors have contributed to our success. Established relationships with the Forestdale community, many of whom now reside in the Gardendale, certainly contributed. New relationships were also built within Gardendale as a resident during the years prior to our opening. Our location was crucial. Odum Road was a busy thoroughfare and there was quite the buzz about what was being built! The residents of Gardendale welcomed us with open arms from day 1.
Why did you choose Gardendale as the place for your clinic?
Gardendale was really the only choice I considered. I wanted to have a practice in MY town, the place I called home. Gardendale was growing rapidly enough that we felt another veterinary hospital and boarding facility was needed and would be supported.
What changes have you seen in the community that have affected your business since it began?
Growth, growth, growth! Opening during a recession was frightening. The growth of Gardendale area off-set other economic issues. We never experienced any palpable setbacks.
Are there any changes you would like to see in the Gardendale that would help your business grow?
As a profession, we need more veterinarians in the work force, which is not unique to Gardendale. Our business has demonstrated annual growth since opening. Additionally, during COVID there was a marked increase in pet ownership, resulting in a natural corresponding need for veterinary services. A shortage of veterinarians will affect further growth from a practical standpoint.
What are your plans for Mercy for the future? Do you plan to broaden your services to customers or expand your location?
While we do not currently have plans for physical expansion, we do strive to offer the most updated diagnostic equipment and treatment modalities available in general veterinary practice for our patients. This means frequent upgrades to all of the behind the scenes services as technology rapidly advances.
We opened Kent Farms Animal Hospital in Alabaster in November of 2021.