In 1972, three men who met in vet school decided to start a private practice together in Johnson City.
Over the next 50 years, Mountain Empire Animal Hospital has grown to 102 staff and 18 employed veterinarians, one of the largest private veterinary hospitals in Tennessee.
“We were in the same area and we knew each other and knew each other, so it made sense to consolidate and not have to buy three offices,” said Ron Scott, one of the three initial partners.
Scott, who specializes in small animal care, and Ed Cassell, a veterinarian specializing in large animal care, were in the same veterinary class at Auburn University. Tom Snodgrass, also a specialist in large animal care, was a year ahead of the pair.
After several phone calls, the trio made a serious decision to open a practice together and finally landed in a location north of Johnson City.
“From a big animal perspective, this area didn’t have anyone who looked after big animals, but there were a lot of big animals here, a lot of dairies,” Snodgrass said. “So for me and Ed, it was kind of a dream come true. We didn’t have to build a practice. We had a practice from day one.
Running the business together has not always been easy. The three partners said they had their fair share of disagreements, though none serious, and were often so busy they didn’t see each other for periods of time.
“We weren’t like three peas in a pod or something,” Snodgrass said. “We were three distinct and different personalities.”
Despite their differences, the three grew their business into what are now four small animal clinics and one large animal clinic.
“We were told we’d never make it, but by George, we did,” Cassell said.
Snodgrass retired from the business 15 years ago, and Scott followed in 2008, although he continues to work one day a week. Cassell retired around 2010. And while the trio left behind a financially successful company, they said they believe the real success was in the work they did.
“Our success isn’t just about buildings and that,” Snodgrass said. “It’s being proud of what we’ve done over the years.”
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