ADDRESS: 2444 NW Professional Dr, Corvallis, OR
PHONE: 541- 758-1505
OWNER: Tom Laster
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 3 years in Corvallis, owner of business for one month
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 7
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For professional dental care in a warm and supportive environment. Dr. Laster treats all dental needs, including sleep apnea and dental care for the elderly.
Three years ago, Tom Laster chose Corvallis as his “home town”, and it wasn’t long before he became deeply involved in the community. Dr. Laster approaches patients, acquaintances, and friends with interest, energy, and a high level of caring. He easily expresses his gratitude for being in Corvallis and for the opportunity to work with Dr. John Bugni, whose practice he purchased last month.
Tom, when and why did you decide to buy your business? Originally, I’m from Texas but I moved to Corvallis about 10 seconds after graduating from dental school and getting married. We even honeymooned at the Days Inn on 9th Street! Since I have always been incredibly drawn to the Pacific Northwest, I had been making trips to Oregon for years before graduating. On one of my tours, I found myself driving through Corvallis, randomly walked into Dr. Bugni’s office, and found a new lifelong friend. After practicing for 32 years, he was starting to think about how he could move into retirement. Our transition philosophies were the same and our practice philosophies were the same—he couldn’t just leave the patients he had cared about for so long, and I couldn’t just surprise patients that didn’t know who I was or why I cared. Even though I now own the business, John’s staying on for another year at the very least. We just get along!
Tell us more about your services. We’re a general dentistry office, so we treat the full gamut of needs. On any given day, we may do fillings, crowns, extractions, tooth whitening, root canals, sleep apnea, or any one of a dozen other treatments. We see people of all ages, from toddlers to frail geriatric patients. Thanks to CIBA, I met Brian Lee, who asked me if it would be possible for me to see an elderly friend of his who happened to live in a retirement home. Of course, it would! As a result of that visit, I have begun going to senior residential facilities to give requested exams to residents and reporting their needs back to their families. This is my latest and greatest joy.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? It feels like I’m part of the community that I choose and that I love. Being the Business of the Week is just one more affirmation of my sense that it was a good idea to move to Corvallis.
Does your business fill an unusual niche? Our office, rooms, and parking lot are set up for wheelchair accessibility. My personal experiences and focuses have given me a particularly high level of comfort with elderly patients. Also, as part of my investment in treating sleep apnea, we are able to do our own sleep studies with minimal effort and cost – and that’s a pretty rare thing.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? A challenge with dentistry, in general, is that people wait too long for needed treatment, which limits our treatment options. It’s heartbreaking to have to tell someone there’s no way to save their tooth.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? For business owners, there’s a sense of independence and personal fulfillment from the effort of the endeavor. For patrons, there’s a personal fulfillment and connection with where they put their resources. People can go to any number of places to buy a product, but it feels better when you can buy the product and experience a personal connection. When I pay a local independent business for a bag of coffee, I’m helping them buy their next car, feed their families, and, of course, get their teeth cleaned.
Regarding the future, in times of difficulty, things become more pronounced. I see businesses becoming increasingly creative, increasingly personalized, and increasingly driven to succeed.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis? I came to Corvallis with eyes wide open, looking to continue my life’s work. That’s exactly what I have been able to do, so owning my dental practice is just one more step for me. In a reverse of the traditional order, you could say I have put my “treasure” where I want my heart to lay.
What is your relationship to the community? I’m a member of the Kiwanis Club’s Sunrisers Club. Our focus is on helping local children. I’m also a member of the Arc of Benton County and of course, CIBA. As I mentioned before, I volunteer to do check-ups for seniors at residential facilities. My office also sponsors Girls on the Run where I’m in charge of merchandising at the annual 5K. I really like their focus on teamwork and building self-esteem.
How important is sustainability to you and your business? Sustainability is a constant endeavor for us. We recycle all we possibly can, try very hard to eliminate excess supply orders, which require packaging and shipping, and we send our expired, but otherwise perfect, supplies to charity. But dentistry is a difficult field in terms of environmental sustainability, since so many of the products we use are fossil-fuel based or purposely difficult to biodegrade.
Please give us your one-sentence take-away message about your business. Your mouth – you laugh with it, eat with it, smile with it, and kiss with it; be sure to take care of it.
(Interview and article by Annette Mills – January 26, 2014)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).