Dave Bakke: The most unusual dentist's office in town

Monday, Apr 13 2015 09:16 AM

Though there hasn't been a bank at 1825 S. Sixth St. for about eight years, Dr. Keith Cummins still gets people at his dental office at that address who want to transact bank business. Keith and his wife, Candy, even renamed the old night deposit slot the "chopper hopper."

"I should probably stick my hand in there to see if there are any deposits," Candy jokes. Something from the tooth fairy, maybe?

I have to say, the Cummins dental office marks one of the rare occasions when I have gotten a column out of somebody's office. Maybe it's the stuffed buffalo head in the main reception area or the still-functional bank vault. Or it could be the three canoes hanging from the ceiling or the stuffed brown bear in the basement.

No, actually, I think the elk head wearing dentures did it.

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This office is a mix of Texas (Candy), Alaska (Keith) and fiduciary responsibility. That's why Keith's office is called Magna Dental, simply because the building used to be a Magna Bank. And you know how we are. Even years after a business has closed, we still refer to it as their building.

The Cumminses had outgrown their old office at 613 N. Seventh St. and really, really wanted to find an existing building they could repurpose. The bank building was there, funky blue roof and all, but Candy wasn't seeing how it could work as a dental office.

Not until she woke up at 5 a.m. one day and it was all there in her head. "It was really a sad building, stuck in a time warp," Candy says. "That morning, I started drawing plans, woke up Dr. Keith and said, 'I think this will work.' "

And so they bought the place in 2010 and went to work, doing much of the remodeling themselves. It was still a bank building and very much so.

"It looked like everyone who was working at the bank had just gone to lunch and never came back," Keith says. They think people keep coming by to transact bank business because at the end it was a Regions Bank and still says so on a web page.

Keith loves geology (that's why someone gave him the petrified mastodon teeth in his office). He is a federally licensed firearms dealer (so one bank safe will be used to store guns securely). And he is a licensed Alaskan hunting guide (which explains the stuffed big game in the office).

See, it all makes a sort of weird sense. Candy rides horses; Keith hunts. It's all there in the office, from the little girl's cowgirl outfit and western movie posters to the buffalo that Keith shot at Ted Turner's ranch in Nebraska.

But probably cooler than the elk head with dentures is the main walk-in bank vault in the basement. Still fully functional, the vault contains 1,500 safe deposit boxes. The Cumminses have the keys to each one.

 

Former bank employees have come by to give Keith and Candy a lot of inside dope on the building. For instance, bank employees knew which safe deposit box in the vault contained survival instructions should someone be accidentally locked in. There is also a plug beside the vault door that could be knocked out, enabling hot dogs and soup to be shoved into the vault for whoever was trapped in there.

The vault now features a bear rug on the floor. At least, I don't think that was there when it was a real bank.

The Cumminses have the combinations to all three safes in the building. "They were written on little scraps of paper," Keith says.

There is a nonworking fireplace in the main reception area. Keith did the work on that himself. People can climb up the fireplace. It's used for storage, but the Cummins kids like to go up there and play. This December, there's a good chance that Santa Claus will climb up there, then come down to surprise a group of kids.

Of course, there is a regular dental office in the building. That's the real function of the place after all, but it almost gets lost in all the other great stuff that's there — from carved wooden duck decoys to a hot dog machine to changing rooms for the staff. The changing rooms used to be the private rooms where bank customers could open their safe deposit boxes in isolation.

To say it's unique, well, that's an understatement. Keith and Candy are proud to have been able to take an empty, shuttered Springfield building and rehab it into something that can be used once again.

"Sometimes the city gets a bad rap," Keith says, "but they were nothing but helpful to us. The inspectors were great. (Ward 6) Ald. Cory Jobe was, too."

Keith's work on bringing an old building back to life is really not that surprising when you consider this: A dentist is used to filling cavities. — Contact Dave Bakke: dave.bakke@sj-r.com, 788-1541, twitter.com/DaveBakkeSJR.

21 Mar, 2015

http://www.sj-r.com/article/20150321/NEWS/150329874/1994/NEWS