After the death of his first wife, Dr. Christopher Lovell was looking to escape the Front Range and find a new scene.
His discovery of Durango has added a third orthodontic practice to town – the only orthodontic practice that accepts Medicaid payments.
“After my wife passed away, I wanted to get away,” he said. “And I wanted to move to a place where I was needed. I really wasn’t needed in Golden. On the Front Range, you’re one of many orthodontists. On the Front Range, what you do is outcompete people. I wanted to go to a place where my services were actually needed.”
After selling his Golden orthodontic practice, he moved to Taos for 1½ years, and also married Melanie Lovell, who is now his office manager. He opened Bright Day Orthodontics in 2017 in a 1,700-square-foot space in the Ptarmigan Center off Florida Road.
The practice quickly outgrew the space.
In March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging as a serious threat, the Lovells purchased the Poer House, which previously was home to the Brickhouse Cafe and more recently a tattoo parlor, at 1849 Main Ave.
Also in March, during the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lovells had temporarily closed Bright Day Orthodontics, a week ahead of a closure of orthodontic practices during the first wave of coronavirus business closures required by public health orders to flatten the curve of hospitalizations.
They had planned to hire a contractor to remodel the Poer House, which was built in 1917, during the outbreak of the Spanish flu, but Christopher Lovell said the COVID-19 downtime allowed the Lovells, with the help of friends, to remodel the old house themselves.
“One of our patient’s mother is a talented painter, and she helped us. One of our assistant’s boyfriend is in construction, and he helped us. We found out a lot of Durango wanted this building to be cared for,” Melanie Lovell said.
Remodel of the old house gives Bright Day Orthodontics a 2,600-square-foot office that allows for three separate chairs in separate rooms, two downstairs and one upstairs – a perfect configuration to allow physical distancing with the advent of the novel coronavirus.
The remodel proceeded through the forced COVID-19 business dormancy until Bright Day reopened in June.
“We watched a lot of YouTube videos about applying wallpaper,” Melanie Lovell said of the hands-on project.
Christopher Lovell added, “Working on plumbing in a 100-year-old crawl space was quite horrible.”
Durango was chosen as the locale for the orthodontic practice after looking at markets that Christopher Lovell felt were underserved for orthodontic services.
Besides accepting Medicaid patients, Bright Day has an 18-month, no-interest payment plan for people who don’t have dental insurance.
Orthodontic services, like all medical specialty services, carry an above-average cost in Durango.
“All of health care in Durango is mispriced,” Christopher Lovell said. “It’s hard to find a specialist, and what’s charged here is higher than on the Front Range.
“In Alaska, everything is 50% to 100% more expensive. There’s less competition. Durango is something along the same vein, but to a lesser extent.”