From his office in a corner plaza on Mountain View Drive, Dr. Rick Kunz said he has a rosy perspective of the neighborhood in northeast Anchorage.
He has good patients. A good staff. A practice that does him proud. While the dentist lives near Sand Lake, he orders lunch from Jamico’s and attends Mountain View Community Council meetings and said he doesn’t mind the cross-town commute to work. In fact, when he first considered opening his own Anchorage practice more than five years ago, he said Mountain View was the first place he looked.
“This is where I wanted to be – right here,” Kunz said.
He said the opportunity to open his business in the neighborhood is paying off in a powerful way.
A former dental director at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, Kunz had seen patients at the ANHC’s Mountain View clinic since it opened in 2002. When it closed several years later, Kunz said he had a frank conversation with his wife.
“I said, ‘You know, I ought to take over that office in Mountain View and I think she thought about it for five seconds and said, ‘That’s a great idea,’” Kunz recalled.
When Mountain View Family Dental first went into business, the dentist said there was a flash flood of patients. He said he was understaffed almost immediately. While Kunz initially employed two people, now there are five.
There were some problems at first, Kunz said; patients looking for drugs, staff looking for drugs, theft. He said he wrote a lot of dismissal letters and fired several employees. But he also stood his ground, and now “when somebody leaves it’s because they move.”
Current staff members speak Tagalog, Hmong, German and English, and the dentist himself speaks German and Spanish as well as English. It can often come in handy, but he said he never chooses employees based on what languages they speak — he just tries to hire the best people for the job. The bilingual abilities come with the terrain.
“This is such a diverse neighborhood, that’s what you get,” Kunz said.
Now, the office tends to run itself, he said.
In the waiting room, there’s soft orange lighting from a decorative glass lamp and a deep leather couch pushed up against the side wall; a dreamcatcher hanging opposite the door; a magazine rack and a flat-screen TV and a coffee table strewn with newspapers. Patients are met with a familiar greeting from a smiling receptionist.
It has a comfortable, welcoming feel.
So when Kunz goes to community council meetings and hears about Mountain View’s troubles, he said he always feels slightly surprised. He’ll drive through the neighborhood to see for himself, and notice the drinking in the park and occasional blighted property. Still, he said it seems like those problems are a world away from his own day-to-day reality doing business in Mountain View Plaza. From there, he said the outlook is pretty good.
“I kind of see things through rose-colored glasses,” he said.