Remember that old commercial in which the CEO intones, “I liked it so much I bought the company!”? That’s pretty much what happened to Klava Krivitsky.
About 7 years ago, Krivitsky had elective aesthetic surgery in Los Angeles. An hour after her procedure was over, she was picked up by a private car service—arranged by her aftercare facility—and driven to a top-flight hotel a short distance away. Once there, Krivitsky was treated to around-the-clock care by a staff of experienced nurses and was given unparalleled treatment in the comfort of a luxury venue. That business, located in West Hollywood, Calif, on the outskirts of Beverly Hills, made a huge impression on the savvy Soviet transplant.
An engineering student who grew up in Odessa, Ukraine, Krivitsky immigrated to the United States in 1989. At the time of her surgery, she co-owned a medical-supply company in Los Angeles. Her physician, Garth Fisher, MD, FACS, sent her to the recovery center after he had performed a blepharoplasty on her.
“Seven years ago, I stayed at a premium aftercare center,” Krivitsky remembers, “and when I stayed at that facility I thought maybe I can open something like this. I really liked this kind of business, and all my life I’d been interested in medicine—especially plastic surgery.”
Indeed, the business’ entire unique marketing proposition—a premium plastic surgery recovery center that could leverage the assets of a hotel that was just a short drive from Dr. 90210 territory—impressed Krivitsky immensely.
“I told my partner I wanted to open a business like this right away,” she says. “She visited me with her mom, my husband, and my daughter, and I told them, ‘You know, guys, we’re looking for a medical business, and this is a very nice business.’ “
Smiling, Larisa Shor (Krivitsky’s partner) remembers the visit well. “Klava grabbed my hand and said, ‘I want this business!’ ” To be sure, both women were considering new business opportunities. They thought about buying a nursing home, but that idea had too many negatives. But they both really liked the idea of buying a plastic surgery recovery facility—assuming they were lucky enough to find one. That kind of center attracts a more upscale and diverse clientele.
Krivitsky says, “You get to deal with women who want to make themselves better,” a group to which she already belonged. Plus, a surgery recovery center also presented both women with a chance to use their medical backgrounds and provide more hands-on health care, something they had each wanted to do for a while.
Over time, Krivitsky and Shor did their research and became more convinced. “I had a friend in Russia, a plastic surgeon, who had a facility like this,” Krivitsky explains. “When I talked to him, he told me, ‘You know, Klava, maybe it is a good idea to open a business in recovery after plastic surgery.'” Good advice, to be sure.
Within a few years, as their surgical-supply business expanded, the idea of owning a business similar to the one Krivitsky fell in love with didn’t seem that far-fetched. They continued to ask questions and kept their ears to the ground, hoping to find an existing business to take over.
Finally, the business partners came across an ad in the classified section of The Wall Street Journal that offered the recovery center “Shanteque” for sale. Five years after her epiphany, Krivitsky’s dream came true.
Today, together with Krivitsky’s daughter Isabella, the women are co-owners of Shanteque Recovery Retreat, among the nation’s premier plastic surgery recovery centers, a facility that benefits both patients and doctors. Richard Ellenbogen, MD, FACS, FICS, proclaims, “I’ve been using Shanteque for about 20 years. I think very highly of Shanteque. All the other places that compete with them—they are merely imitators. Shanteque was the one that started it, and they are really very good.”
The Shanteque Recovery Retreat is situated on the second floor of Le Meridien in Beverly Hills, a modern hotel a few blocks from the highly respected Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. On a Friday afternoon in January, Shanteque’s nursing station and main office is abuzz with activity. The phone rings, the fax machine delivers documents from a surgeon, and nurses zigzag around the room.
A patient will be here soon, ready to be met and escorted upstairs. Amid this action-packed atmosphere stands Shor. A Ukrainian immigrant, Shor earned her degree as a registered nurse in the former Soviet Union and came to the United States in 1991.
She wears a lab coat as she discusses Shanteque, its history, processes, and manifold advantages. Shanteque is a full-service recovery center, and most reservations are made by the patient’s plastic surgeon about 2 or 3 months in advance of the procedure. On surgery day, someone from the physician’s office calls Shanteque 1 hour before the patient is released. After being discharged, the patient is met by one of the company’s two limousines and then is driven to Le Meridien.
The guest arrives almost clandestinely; he or she is dropped off in an underground garage, where a nurse, a smile, and a wheelchair greet him or her. Ushered into a waiting elevator, the patient is then brought upstairs and escorted directly to his or her room. Any immediate needs are taken care of by the attending nurse, and the patient is left to a quiet, peaceful rest.
|Many of Shanteque’s recovery suites include spacious outdoor areas.|
When asked why a patient would be better off in a place like Shanteque rather than their own home, Shor extols the many benefits of her facility. “The first 24 to 48 hours after surgery are crucial,” she says. “There may be risk of hematoma, blood pressure must be monitored, and patients are often very needy. Plus, there’s a different protocol for each doctor.”
Indeed, throughout the patient’s stay, he or she is treated to incredibly attentive health care. There is one nurse for every three patients—an impressive ratio by anyone’s standards. A nurse checks in on patients every 20 minutes.
In addition, the facility works with a 24-hour pharmacy in case any off-hour medicine is required. Of Shanteque’s partnerships with local surgeons, Krivitsky adds, “On our list we have 62 doctors—most of them are from Beverly Hills. And our relationship with them is great. We never have problems with the doctors.”
Since acquiring the business, Krivitsky and her partners haven’t turned complacent. “We have changed so many things since we bought the business,” she says. “Now, we offer private-duty nurses—some patients, after staying with us for 2 or 3 days, may request a private-duty nurse at home, and if requested we do send nurses to clients’ homes. We’ve changed some procedures. We have a hyperbaric chamber. We’ve upgraded the rooms—and both the staff and office run better.”
They’ve also improved their overall marketing strategy by using a public-relations (PR) firm. “We asked some doctors if they had any suggestions on how we could improve our business,” Krivitsky says, “and one referred us to our current PR agency. And I can see the difference. All our patients comment about our Web site, for example. We have evaluation forms, and all our feedback is excellent. I sometimes go to patients’ rooms and I ask how they like our nursing staff. They like us.”
Importantly, plastic surgeons like them, too. Ellenbogen says, “Under the new management, they have improved and gotten through the problems that any business has when it kind of gets older.”
Le Meridien’s north wing corridor is decorated with impressionistic artwork in expensive-looking frames. Downstairs, the renowned hotel’s guests enter a contemporary and spacious white marble lobby. Sun rays stream in through wide skylights and illuminate aromatic flowers as the sound of a fountain fills the air.
The environment lends a calm, comforting air that continues in the suites above. This is clearly an appropriate setting for a luxury plastic surgery recovery retreat.
Each Shanteque guest room is furnished with a fax machine; wireless Internet access; an adjustable king-size bed; and bedside controls for the bed, television, music, and DVD player. Beside each bed is a special phone with a one-touch direct line to the nursing station. In a clever move, a small piece of fabric fastener has been attached to this button in all the rooms so that patients with postoperatively impaired eyesight can simply feel for the “fuzzy button.”
That room is a long distance from the port city of Odessa, among the largest in Ukraine. After coming to the United States from Odessa in 1991, Shor became a licensed x-ray technician. At the same time, she was the office manager for a West Hollywood plastic surgeon. Krivitsky, also from Odessa, moved to the United States in 1989. In one of life’s little coincidences, the two strangers ended up being neighbors in Los Angeles and quickly became close friends.
At the time, Krivitsky worked at a pharmacy and medical-supply company. Then, in 1996, looking to start her own business, she approached her friend and asked if she’d be willing to partner with her to start their own medical-supply company. When Shor agreed, the two friends were suddenly new business partners, opening Star Medical and Surgical, based in West Hollywood. That business still exists today, but Shanteque is now Krivitsky’s and Shor’s true love and object of attention.
Shanteque offers its affluent visitors world-class suites, many with private, 30-foot outdoor areas. But Shanteque doesn’t just treat the rich and famous.
Krivitsky notes, “Sometimes we have movie stars and celebrities, but even people who are not so rich stay with us. We have patients from other states, and they know how much money they’ve spent on plastic surgery. So when their doctor tells them that they should go to a recovery place after surgery, they generally listen. People who have plastic surgery understand they have to have somebody who can take care of them because it is surgery, after all.”
Shanteque’s guests are provided all the luxuries of a premium hotel—a benefit that adds to the patient’s experience. That includes access to the hotel’s 24-hour room service. At Shanteque, however, patients get the added benefit of a nutritionist who oversees their dietary needs and prepares custom menus that include both regular and “soft” choices. Shanteque offers premium service, and that luxury comes at a premium price—a stay in a queen-bed suite costs just under $800 per night.
Certainly, Krivitsky and Shor should be successful for many years to come. Always looking for the next big thing, they have plans to open a satellite location.
Krivitsky says, “We want to open another place in Newport Beach [Calif], because there are so many doctors there. Some doctors have called us and asked us to open a location down there. We’re looking for a place within 5 or 10 minutes from most of the doctors, and Newport Beach is a very nice area with very nice hotels. We’re looking forward to grow the business beyond just the one we bought.”
Today, Shanteque, with its 15 suites and convenient location, is doing fine, serving an upscale clientele. Le Meridien Hotel gives this client base exactly what it expects in an overnight stay.
The Shanteque experience, meanwhile, starts with door-to-door service and continues with premium aftercare, courtesy of Shanteque’s most important feature: a skilled, caring, and qualified staff. Patients need a setting where relaxation and comfortable care help speed their healing. Obviously, this home away from home offers its customers the same creature comforts they’d expect in their own living quarters. And while Shanteque’s guests enjoy 24-hour medical attention, their surgeons are likely relaxing even more.
G.F. Sheffer is a contributing writer for Plastic Surgery Products. For additional information, please contact [email protected]