Things were rough for Freddy Char in 2005. Six years earlier, he had emigrated from Lebanon to the U.S. and, since he had experience as a ceramist, he began working in a large laboratory in Illinois. But within a few years, Char was convinced he could make a better living outside the laboratory industry. He moved to Iowa for a new career in the mortgage business...only to find it wasn't as lucrative as he had hoped. To make matters worse, he was in debt, his credit cards were maxxed out and he was afraid he was going to lose his house.
His luck changed when a friend in the dental field put him in touch with a dental practice looking for a new C&B laboratory. On a wing and a prayer, Char fabricated a few crowns for the dentists, Dr. Bob Margeas and Dr. Paul Polydoran. "They were impressed with my work and began sending cases to me regularly," says Char. "They also introduced me to other dentists through their education center and then the work really began rolling in."
In January 2006, Char officially opened his own laboratory, Elite Dental Studio, in his home in Des Moines, IA. Although he was happy to have his own business, the lab was located in his basement, which repeatedly flooded, and it was cramped and "dark like a dungeon," he says. So Char set a goal for himself: to have his own beautiful facility within five years.
Five Years Later
True to his goal, in 2010, Char took the plunge and bought a 1,980-sq-ft, two-story building in West Des Moines, IA, and totally redesigned it with the help of Dental Arte. The result is a contemporary, light-filled laboratory with lots of windows and a calming gray-blue color scheme. Since Char was aiming for an art studio feel in his lab, he has incorporated many items that reflect his eclectic taste. For instance, the building is filled with pieces of large, abstract metal artwork as well as his collection of prehistoric fish fossils from the Lebanese mountains.
One challenge of the project was designing an efficient workflow in two floors. Char and Dental Arte's Massimo Sasso solved the issue by placing the initial steps of production--shipping and receiving, model making and casting--on the ground floor, and the waxing, finishing and porcelain departments on the second. Each department feels spacious and airy thanks to half walls with large glass windows.
Char and his four technicians moved in last year and today they are enjoying their new home. So, with one dream realized, what will Char tackle next? "I'd like to hire more technicians so I can further grow my business," says Char. "I need more manpower." Here's betting he'll reach that goal, too.