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Business Observer Friday, May 20, 2016 3 years ago

Aesthetic renovations

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In the competitive world of plastic surgery, one doctor has a plan to surpass the field. It's a seven-figure effort.
by: Steven Benna Staff Writer

As implied by the company's name — Clinique of Plastic Surgery — plastic surgery is the core service the downtown St. Petersburg business provides.

Run by Dr. Christian Drehsen, the practice has about 150 customers per week. Many of those customers come from outside Florida.

The farthest a customer has traveled to see Drehsen: more than 4,000 miles. “One lady was a friend of Sarah Palin,” he says, “So that's pretty far off in Alaska somewhere.” Other clients have come from Spain, Guatemala and England, Drehsen adds.

Drehsen aims to draw in even more people, from Florida and worldwide, with a significant physical space expansion and the creation of a full-scale aesthetic center, which includes surgical procedures, a retail component and recovery rooms. Rather than focus on only surgery, Drehsen believes he can grow the business by offering a larger variety of services in his new space.

Drehsen is investing about $1 million to bring his vision to fruition. The goal, he says, is “to become a recognized place of service excellence in the cosmetic field. I'm very competitive, and we'd like to work to attract more people from out of town. Being a one-stop shop is a good thing.”

His plan involves sectoring off his four-story, 15,000-square-foot building at 240 First Ave. S., near Rowdies Den and the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Drehsen paid $1.7 million for the building in 2010. The first floor will be a multi-faceted area with retail space and spa treatments. The second floor is the plastic surgery practice.

The top two floors will serve additional functions. On the third floor, Drehsen is building a conference room that fits 60 to 80 people, he says. “We can have mini-seminars in there,” he says. And the fourth floor will have business offices and patient rooms for recovery.

Work started in April and Drehsen says it could be done in the next three months. The $1 million, which Drehsen got by refinancing the building with Freedom Bank, was split into $600,000 for construction costs and $400,000 for equipment and other costs, he says.

When the renovations are complete, Drehsen expects a flood of increased patients for the practice, which has 12 employees. He declines to share specific revenue figures through this year, but he says, “There's no doubt the value of the business has increased pretty substantially as the city has grown.”

He attributes a solid portion of that success to the downtown St. Petersburg revival. “The fact that the city is more alive and booming, it's a great asset,” he says. “Ideally, it would be nice if St. Petersburg could become a medical tourism destination.”

And on the medical side, Drehsen says part of what makes the practice unique is something he created himself: the refresher lift. He's done research on the effect of facial expressions and found a social benefit to showing happy emotions. The refresher lift, he says, is a face-lift to improve the resting facial expression.

Finding a plastic surgeon takes a solid amount of consumer education and research, Drehsen says, but most people can't see the difference between physicians. To solve that, Drehsen uses computer imaging, where a mug shot shows potential clients the emotion they project at rest, and compares that to what the procedure will do. “They understand the goal of all this is what people see,” Drehsen says. “I'm giving them a plan.”

That plan, plus the plan to grow, motivates Drehsen. “I love surgery,” he says. “When you do something, I like the idea of being able to rebuild something for the patient to make them whole.”

Follow Steven Benna on Twitter @steve_benna

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