Dr. Anna O’Keefe sits in her current dental office Friday on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

To build her new office the right way, Dr. Anna O’Keefe knew it had to be from the ground up.

The 2007 Colby College graduate is looking to move her practice into a new 5,200-square-foot facility in FirstPark. The facility is planned to open this fall with all the latest technology and room for more.

“If we’re going to be in (the space for) the next 30 years, it might as well be the best it possibly can,” O’Keefe said. “Our treatment rooms are north facing, and that’s really important for light, like when you’re selecting colors.

“There’s just a lot of little things that the control freak in me really appreciated in being able to build it up.”

O’Keefe and Dr. John Poirier, the dentist whom O’Keefe bought the practice from, currently operate at 325 Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville. The new building will be located at 93 FirstPark Drive. Work on the facility began last month in FirstPark, a 285-acre business park off Kennedy Memorial Drive. The paperwork was signed March 13, 2020, but the project was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Opened in 1999 and established through the Maine Legislature, FirstPark is located off Interstate 95’s Exit 130 and houses 16 businesses in addition to the Kennebec Regional Development Authority‘s office. The development authority, which is made up of representatives from 24 area towns and an executive board, oversees the park.

The park also employs James Dinkle, its full-time executive director. They’ve had trouble filling lots in the past, but posted a strong 2020 and are looking to add more businesses.

O’Keefe, like all the other businesses, owns the land her practice will be on. They chose FirstPark because it came pre-permitted and zoned.

“People in the area generally know what it is,” O’Keefe said. “As opposed to where we currently are, it’s like this little hidden secret.”

TO WATERVILLE AND BACK 

O’Keefe and her husband, Brendan, have been together since their junior year at Colby College.

She wanted to be a dentist since seventh grade, and O’Keefe went on to graduate Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Brendan from Suffolk University Law School. An opportunity for Anna O’Keefe brought them back to Waterville.

It wasn’t necessarily the plan. Anna hails from Washington state, Brendan O’Keefe from western Massachusetts.

“We talked about a lot of places,” Anna said, “but the job was really perfect.”

They moved from Beacon Hill in Boston to Waterville, both ready to get out of the city. The O’Keefe’s appreciated the smaller community and the vibrancy of Maine’s outdoors. Anna likes seeing her patients around the city.

“I like that Waterville isn’t just this little microcosm of a bunch of professionals that don’t interact with anyone else,” she said. “I think it’s important to live in an area where you’re not walled off from each other.”

Dr. Anna O’Keefe holds her daughter Natalie, 3, with her husband Brendan O’Keefe at the site of their new dental practice currently under construction at FirstPark in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

O’Keefe, who had shadowed at the Waterville Community Dental Center and at Poirier’s practice while at Colby, joined the former upon graduation. She then joined the latter in 2013 purchasing the practice in 2017. Brendan practiced law full-time for a while, but in 2017, but the husband and wife tandem decided to join forces when Anna bought the practice. Brendan serves as the practice’s business manager.

They remember a day when their oldest daughter had a fever at day care. Brendan was in court without his phone, Anna was in the middle of a root canal. They have two daughters: 6-year-old Clara and 3-year-old Natalie.

“That’s when we knew it wasn’t going to work,” Anna O’Keefe joked.

A TRUE FAMILY BUSINESS

Working together also has additional pluses. It’s constant cooperation.

“We say ‘how was your day?’ but we kind of know,” Brendan said.

Brendan took a class on how to manage the business side of the practice so Anna could take continuing education courses across the country.

“Our goal is to do it all really well,” Anna said. “Specialization, right?”

Poirier still works at the practice alongside O’Keefe as an independent contractor. When she started working with her mentor, she realized she wanted a larger space to add another dentist.

While continuing the practice at its current second-floor location, the O’Keefes looked around for a new spot.

“Dental offices are really idiosyncratic,” Anna said. “You have to plumb and wire things really weirdly, so it’s hard to move into an office space.”

A deal for a space in Waterville fell through, so they opted for FirstPark, purchasing the lot from someone who already owned the land and had begun to prep the area for a business. Plans for the building started in 2018 and continue to be honed at present.

Slated to be occupied by November or December, the building is designed with state of the art air filters to protect staff and patients. Ventilation will provide extra hourly air changes and filtration. O’Keefe is also expanding her practice, with another dentist, hygienist and additional front office staff to be hired. With the new location, they can accept more patients.

The timeline to open the new building may have been delayed, but the O’Keefes maintain a positive outlook.

“It worked out for the best because what if we had built it pre-COVID and completely needed to redo the HVAC?” Anna said. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.