A familiar face to many of Valley Stream’s pets and pet owners has said goodbye to a veterinary practice that he helped grow into one of the Long Island’s most comprehensive animal care facilities.
Dr. Steven Fox, of Central Veterinary Associates of Valley Stream, retired last month. He was the president and chief executive officer of the veterinary practice where he worked for more than 30 years.
In 1980, he walked into the Vine Animal Hospital on West Merrick Road, a family practice that had been in business since 1938. He started as an associate doctor of veterinary medicine, before working his way up to senior managing partner in just two years. Fox helped oversee the expansion of the business into Central Veterinary Associates, which included the acquisition of several animal clinics in Nassau and Queens.
Through all the growth, the Valley Stream location remained the hub and it evolved into a 24-hour clinic. “It was probably the single most valuable service that we were able to provide,” he said. “It gave all pet owners peace of mind. They knew they could just get in the car and drive over; they didn’t even have to call because they always knew there would be a doctor on the premises.”
Fox said when he was in veterinary school at Fairleigh Dickinson University and then the University of Perugia in Italy, it was his goal to build a leading, multi-doctor, multi-location clinic that provided a wide range of pet care services. Thinking back to his early goals, Fox said his career went like a script.
But he couldn’t do it alone. Fox said he worked with many great people over the years, and said the staff of Central Veterinary Associates is what helped make the business so successful. “I always knew, and experienced proved it, that putting our patients’ care and our clients’ service first, our own success would follow,” he said. “I think that’s true in any service business.”
The patients are the pets, and the clients are their owners. In 2011, Central Veterinary Associates handled more than 60,000 patient visits from a client list nearing 40,000.
Though Fox hasn’t regularly treated animals in several years as he made the transition into full-time management of the business, he has been involved in patient diagnostics and communication with clients.
He takes pride in the reputation of the business, and noted that Central Veterinary Associates performed nearly $1 million worth of pro-bono care last year. The practice was chosen to take care of penguins when the Jim Carrey film “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” was filmed in Brooklyn a few years ago. It has also treated injured animals from Valley Stream’s parks. And, Fox said, the practice was always on the cutting edge of technology.
Fox took business management courses on a regular basis, which gave him the opportunity to meet animal care practitioners from around the country. “If you’re the greatest veterinarian in the world but you can’t manage a successful business, you’ll fail,” he said. “The two have to go hand-in-hand.”
Growing up in Bayside, Queens, Fox spent much of his childhood around horses and always had a dog. Now, he has a 2 1/2-year-old maltese. Fox said while veterinary medicine was his profession, he could almost call it a hobby.
In retirement, Fox said he plans to do some traveling with his wife, Karen, of 36 years. They have one son. He will also go to Florida to visit his father, and spend more time going to the gym and riding his bike.
The 58-year-old who lives in Atlantic Beach said he may also do some consulting work, and has already been approached by several large animal practices from around the country.
He plans to stay in contact with several of his partners and colleagues, and knows that the practice is in good hands. “My heart and soul will always be with Central Veterinary Associates,” he said. “I will always be proud of my legacy and I’m confident that my successors and the entire team will continue to improve and advance.”