Two International Falls dentists with more than 70 years of experience combined, are trading pulling teeth and filling cavities for traveling and pulling fish from Rainy Lake.
Dr. Steven Takaichi and Dr. Tom Herzig, both retired this month after more than 43 years and 30 years, respectively.
And while one of the dental locations will stay open with a new dentist taking over, the other has a sale sign sitting in the front yard.
“We’ve had (the practice) listed with a dental transition placement company for almost seven years and they weren’t able to find anybody,” Takaichi said, adding he was officially done today.
At Shorewood Dental, a practice Herzig built in 1998, the new dentist is Dr. Lucy Corrin, formerly Lucy Nevanen, a 2008 Falls High School graduate.
“I’m so excited to be back in town,” Corrin said, who this summer moved from Bigfork back to International Falls with her husband, Ladd. “We always wanted to move home and the timing was right.”
Unique stories follow Corrin’s move back to Borderland.
For one, her mother, Denise Nevanen, works at Shorewood Dental, and will now be employed by her daughter.
“I couldn’t have done this without her,” Corrin said, as Herzig smiled off to the side.
“I’m waiting for the first time she slips and calls her mom,” he said.
In addition to the mother-daughter work relationship at the office, Corrin’s father, Paul Nevanen, is the director of the Koochiching Economic Development Authority, which spearheads the Your Ticket Home campaign.The effort targets people within the ages of 25 and mid-40s who have a connection to Koochiching County in some way. Whatever it is that previously brought people to the area hopefully built an emotional connection that would encourage a permanent return, is the idea behind the campaign.
Nevanen said he was overjoyed to see an opportunity open up to bring his daughter a bike ride away.
“This is what we envisioned with this campaign,” Nevanen said. “We talk about opportunity and we talk about recruitment... this is a perfect example of the right timing.”
Ladd is able to work from home, which removed occasional challenges of finding work for a spouse when one job opportunity opens up.
“People being able to work from home provides other opportunities for people,” Nevanen said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and challenges to overcome, but I truly believe this is a place people want to relocate back to. We have a lot to offer here.”
After finishing dental school in 2018 and working at a practice in Bigfork for two years, Corrin knew she wanted to return to the community she and Ladd call home.
“I do feel really lucky to have a job that we can come back here,” she said.
Herzig said he feels fortunate, too.
The dentist has been in practice for just over 30 years and when he and Corrin started having serious conversations about her taking over the business about a year ago, he knew the timing was right to step back.
“I saw the opportunity and I think (Corrin) did as well and I think it’s going to be a very nice fit,” Herzig said.
And while Corrin is now seeing patients, Herzig isn’t completely out of the picture. To help with the transition, he plans to assist a few days a week.
“I think the transition with her and me and the patients makes sense,” Herzig said. “We’re fortunate it works out that way... if that wasn’t possible, Lucy would have been just fine on her own.”
Closing up shop
While Herzig and Corrin work on the change in ownership, Takaichi is clearing out this Third Street location.
The practice, which he has owned since 1977, officially closed its doors today.
“We’ve been at it for 44 years now and it’s just time,” he said.
Attracted to Rainy Lake, when Takaichi first came to International Falls, he said he went to the bank, got a loan, purchased some equipment, rented a space and “started cold.”
There were nine other dentists in the area when Takaichi first went into practice, and noted the increase in workload as there have been fewer and fewer dentists in Borderland.
“It’s always been really busy,” he said.
He talked fondly of the strong rapport with his patients, noting he’s treated up to five generations of some families.
“Retirement is bittersweet for myself and the patients,” he said.
With the retirement of Takaichi and Herzig, the need for dentists continues in the area, Takaichi said.
While slightly frustrated he was unable to find anyone to take over his practice, despite many efforts, he said he anticipates the workload to be overwhelming.
“The dentists we have in town will do very well,” he said. “But there’s not the capacity to take care of everybody who needs to come in.”
In addition to Shorewood Dental, there is now one other dental office in International Falls. Dr. Christine Gelo is the full-time dentist at Lucachick Dental Office owned by her parents, Drs. Gary and Coleen Lucachick.
Corrin and Herzig said Shorewood Dental is always accepting new patients.
“I hope people will continue to come here to see Lucy and extend the same kindness they did to me all these years,” Herzig said.
Herzig and Takaichi both said they plan to enjoy time on Rainy Lake with the extra time on their hands, but said they’ll miss their patients and staff.
“I will miss patient interaction the most, and seeing my staff everyday,” Herzig said, adding some of his staff have been with him since the beginning. “I’ve been blessed with an amazing staff.”
Takaichi offered advice for the freshman dentists and those who may relocate to the area in the future.
“Do excellent work and treat people well,” he said. “Just show up everyday and do the best you can.”