What was once a dilapidated book barn is now a reconstructed veterinary clinic. Elemental Pet Vets, located on 1610 Dryden Road in Freeville, will be holding its grand opening on Dec. 7.
Before being converted into a veterinary clinic, the property used to be home to Phoenix Books before the store permanently closed in 2015. Janette and Dr. Curtis Dewey are the owners of the new veterinary clinic. Curtis said one of his and Janette’s goals when they purchased the property back in 2017 was to preserve as much of the barn as they could.
“I’m a native New Yorker. I’ve lived in Ithaca for about 20 years,” Curtis said. “I actually went to school here, so I remember this. It’s kind of an iconic structure, the Phoenix Book barn. I wanted to not just preserve it, but I wanted it to be at least as beautiful as it was when they first built it in the 1800s, if not better.”
Janette along with some of her family members from New Jersey and Pennsylvania—a total of about six people as a whole—were responsible for the entire renovation project of the barn.
“They would come on the weekends when they were available, and we worked from nine to midnight,” Janette said. “We basically did that for almost two years. That was the inside. The outside, we hired a group of people to do the outside. But for the most part, in the inside that was me and my crew.”
It was no easy fix by any stretch of the matter, though.
“You could see there’s pieces of the wall missing,” Curtis said. “The floor is all messed up. The old, musty book smell dissipated now, so you can smell the rodent droppings and pee…There’s holes everywhere. It’s like a Swiss cheese barn.”
Curtis said he began to have second thoughts about purchasing the barn, but Janette said she had no worries whatsoever.
“I was like, ‘It’s beautiful. Are you kidding me,’” Janette said. “‘This is nothing. I got this. Trust me.’”
Fortunately, they were able to preserve and restore some of the original wooden timbers with some new staining and paint. With the rest of the renovation, Janette said everything used to refurbish the barn—furniture, floor, etc.—came from local second-hand stores such as Mimi’s Attic and Ithaca ReUse Center.
The building currently features just one floor, although there is a second floor and a basement, which Curtis and Janette said they will try to renovate in the future. There are six exam rooms, an employee break room and bathroom and a rehabilitation room.
While it is a veterinary clinic, Curtis said he hopes to have the business present more of a spa-esque environment.
“This is really adjunctive therapy for pets,” he said. “It’s something that will be to complement whatever they are already getting from their veterinarian. Obviously we see animals of all ages, but it’s more tuned to geriatrics.”
All of the services offered at the clinic are Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine-based. According to the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, TCVM features four branches: acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy and Tui-na, which is a form of Chinese medical massage.
Elemental Pet Vets offers services related to all four of those branches along with several others. Some of the services are laser therapy, aquatic therapy, massage therapy, herbal therapy, treadmill (underwater or not underwater) therapy and acupuncture.
“These are the kind of things that will help them feel better, help with their pain relief,” Curtis said. “But they don’t have the adverse effects of drugs, and they’re not things like going through a major surgery.”
“A lot of what we do is preventative. People often say, ‘Just go to the vet only when their animal is sick.’…But things like exercise therapy, just doing that on a regular basis, or food therapy. There’s certain herbals and other conventional supplements…that if you start them early, then they probably won’t have as many problems as they get older.”
While the services and techniques offered at the clinic are not typical of the ones offered at most clinics, Curtis said he expects the public to be receptive of what his clinic has to showcase.
“I think most pet owners are very interested in these things,” he said. “A big part of it is because it’s not really associated with a lot of side effects or adverse affects. Part of it is because a lot of people that have pets, they’ve had their own experiences—they’ve actually gone to an acupuncturist—so they got that therapy and it worked.”