Volume 19, Number 2 | May 26 - June 1, 2006

Hopes for a certain trip to the dentist

Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel

WTC Dental Group partner Richard Marchitto in his office on lower Broadway. He and his partners are celebrating the practice’s 30th anniversary.

By Willa Paskin

The first 25 years of the World Trade Center Dental Group’s existence were, as is the case with most dental practices, relatively placid. The last five years, as its name would suggest, have been anything but. In that time, the group has contended with many of the difficulties facing other Downtown businesses since 9/11— they have moved three times, had to contend with less space, and lost about two thirds of their clientele. But as the practice celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, founding partner Richard Marchitto is optimistic about the future.

“Would I like to see the practice doing better?” he wondered. “Yeah, I would, but I think it will. The World Trade Center was like our home, but we’re doing okay.”

Marchitto, a 58-year old man with dark, graying hair, who sports a white lab coat, founded the practice with two other dentists on the third floor of 5 W.T.C. in May 1976.

When it opened the practice had two operatories (rooms where dentists see patients), one of which it shared with an ear, nose and throat specialist, and it did not have its own lease. By 2001, the practice had their own lease, for a 4,000 square foot space, and seven exam rooms. Marchitto estimates that the practice is now one third of the size it was in 2001— it currently has 2,531 clients.

Doris Wilson, who has worked at the practice for six years, said the old facilities were beautiful. “It was wonderful,” she said. “There was a big kitchen. A view. You didn’t have to leave to go anywhere.”

Five World Trade Center was one of the satellite buildings in the complex, itself not over 10 stories, but all the buildings were interconnected. “It was like a little city or a community in itself,” Marchitto said. “We were like the 7/11 in Bed-Stuy. Everyone knew where we were. We were the only dental office in the building. And here,” he said gesturing around his new cozy, if windowless, office on Broadway near Bowling Green, “we’re on the 15th floor, where no one knows who we are, and it’s all word of mouth.”

On 9/11, 5 World Trade Center partially collapsed and caught on fire. Over 100 of the practice’s patients were killed, but all dental employees survived. All of the office records, files and computers, were destroyed. “One minute you have something, you’ve established something, you’ve got family, people, and then the next hour it’s gone,” Marchitto said, though he is quick to say that relatively speaking, the group escaped unharmed. “In reality, we’re okay. It’s been a lot of maneuvers, but we’re good.”

A back-up tape with patients’ contact information had been sent to the computer shop a week before 9/11 for repairs and a technician was able to salvage some information. Just a month after Sept. 11, W.T.C.D.G. was already sharing office space with another dentist and had been able to make contact with at least some of their clients.

Marchitto said they never considered changing the practice’s name or leaving Downtown. “We just didn’t want to leave the area. We knew people down here. We had all walks of life from the Trade Center, executives, cleaning people, everything.” In fact, Marchitto is something of a Downtown advocate, smiling, “Downtown was always pooh-poohed, but that’s why I like it here, because I feel more relaxed. I see Downtown coming back.”

Andrew Turchin, a partner in the practice in his early 30s, lives in Tribeca (Marchitto lives in New Jersey). Turchin started working for the practice in March 2002, though before then, he knew Dr. Marchitto, and Dr. Longo, another founding partner who is now retired. “I figured that right after 9/11 Downtown needed all the help it could get,” he said.

Though Marchitto said that the World Trade Center isn’t something he talks about all the time with his patients, he tries to close the office on Sept. 11, and there’s a pencil sketch of the Twin Towers up behind his desk. Wilson said the subject comes up often during spare moments in the office. “We reminisce about it with our patients when the doctors leave the room,” she said. “We talk about it all the time.”

Marchitto and Turchin describe the practice now as a little more family centered and mellower than it was at the W.T.C. “I don’t want to say we’re like ‘Cheers’ now, where everybody knows your name, but it’s a little like that,” Marchitto smiled. “It was a bigger machine before,” Turchin offers. “And it’s a lot simpler now,” Marchitto added.

“Patients I’ve seen for a long time are telling me, ‘I’m retiring,’” Marchitto said. “I say ‘God bless you.’ Marchitto does have a retirement date in mind. “My goal would be to get us back in the Trade Center and retire. So what is that, seven more years?”


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