• Sarah Davin, The Bridge

New Animal Hospital Revives Downtown Garage Space

The Capital City Farmers Market will soon buzz with locals buying cherry tomatoes, honey, and goat cheese, all while inhaling the mouth-watering smells of hot enchiladas and spanakopita. Even more excited than the humans are the collies, spaniels, Labradors, and more, who arrive in as many varieties as the produce in the market. This year, the Heney lot will include one more pet-friendly amenity to draw more business downtown

The red brick former “Garage” will open this spring as the Stonecliff Animal Surgical Center, thanks to husband-and-wife duo Dr. Dan Kelly and Jodi Kelly, who are reviving the long-vacant building at 58 State Street and also plan to convert the upstairs into The Garage Cultural Center to host a variety of events, particularly culinary ones.

Stonecliff Animal Surgical Center

The new surgical center is the third animal hospital the Kellys have opened in the area; they also run Stonecliff Animal Clinic in Bradford and a satellite clinic is West Lebanon, New Hampshire. The new center, currently under construction, will provide surgical care for animals. The Stonecliff Animal Surgical Center will also do emergency surgeries during their weekday hours. “If there is an emergency, we will do our best to accommodate them,” said Dan.

One of the assets of Stonecliff Animal Surgical Center is Dan’s impressive amount of surgical experience. He has a special expertise in dog orthopedics and has had clients travel to see him from all over New England, Canada, and abroad. To better understand weaknesses in dogs knees, Kelly conducted a study comparing the knees of coyotes with the knees of domestic dogs and has spoken in Boston at an orthopedic symposium about a novel procedure to repair cruciate ligaments in dogs.

In addition to serving animals, the Kellys also plan to use the space to help seniors take care of their furry companions. Once a week, they will open their space to an as-of-yet unnamed nonprofit to help seniors get their pets the care they need. The industry-wide rise in pet care costs is especially difficult for seniors because it is often at odds with the fixed incomes of older community members.

“It’s been really important for both of us for the last 30 years to make sure everyone can afford a level of veterinary care. Because the human–animal bond is so strong, it keeps them living; it keeps them up; it keeps them walking and getting out of bed in the morning. To have this nonprofit come in one day and provide basic dental health and tumor removal—things they’d just have no way to afford—is especially helpful. Dental disease is a serious issue, so we’re pretty excited to have a program like that,” said Jodi.

Jodi has put extra effort into shaping the former garage space into a comfortable space for pets and their owners while they are at the animal hospital. Kelly and her sister-in-law, who is an architect, designed the space with the comfort of the animals in mind. For example, in their Bradford location, the reception area is made to look like a village square.

In addition to designing their center in an animal-friendly manner, they also have a few other tricks to keep pets and people calm. “Our idea is that when you come into one of our hospitals, you feel like you’re in a hospital but you also have the feeling of home,” Jodi said. “At all our other hospitals, we bake cookies so that when the animals get there, they smell cookies baking and not the medicine. We do a lot of things to try and remove the fear of the visit.”

The Garage Cultural Center

Above the surgical center will be a gallery and kitchen space complete with a staging room for caterers to set up for events and parties. “The idea is to make art and everything that comes with it accessible to everyone and to have a space where everyone can come together, experiment, and discover different mediums. I’m into food photography and I want a space where photographers can come in and give seminars,” Jodi said.

Jodi has many ideas for possible uses for the space. She says she was excited about the interest she received from New England Culinary Institute instructors, some of whom have started their own businesses, and said they would be interested in doing events at The Garage Cultural Center. “I’ve talked to a bunch of chefs in the area because I really want to do cooking demonstrations and potlucks up here. Maybe we’re raising money for the Vermont Food Bank or the Humane Society.”

The Kellys planned to meet with the director of the Farmers Market the week of March 24 to discuss collaborating with the nearby market to help educate the community about different ingredients. Jodi elaborated, “My idea for the Farmers Market is we could have a chef go down there as a workshop, gather up some produce, and show people how to use vegetables—kohlrabi, for example. It would help the community learn how to use the Farmers Market.”

In the future, there may even be events that bring together dogs and food. One suggested event would be a community dog walk. “We’ve been talking about doing weekly dog walks from the vet clinic,” mused Dan, “where people would go Friday afternoon—or whenever we go out for a 5K walk— and everybody meets back here, with food trucks and beer served. It would be a fun thing.”

The Garage Cultural Center will open May 3 with a sculptural exhibition Unbound! Four Women Sculptors Let Loose. The opening date for the surgical center is simply “spring,” for the time being.

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