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Only Downtown Manassas vet clinic a family affair, aims to build trust

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MANASSAS — After he was done caring for pets for the Washington Redskins, he and his wife opened the only veterinarian office in Downtown Manassas.

Samuel and Virginia Martinez own the Old Towne Veterinary Clinic on Center Street. They opened it in May, and since then have been taking care of small dogs like Chihuahuas, and cats — the favorite animals of people that live in the growing number of small apartments and condos in the city.

It’s a far cry from the oversized Pitt Bulls, and Bull Mastiffs owned by Washington, D.C. football players. Samuel Martinez had been working as a vet at a clinic in Ashburn, near Redskins Park.

“Sometimes they would come in and just ask us to look at their dogs,” Samuel said. “Sometimes they brought us t-shirts, but we never got any autographs. We kept it professional.”

The Manassas clinic located at 9211 Center Street marks the first time Samuel has had his own practice since becoming a veterinarian in 2009. Unlike when he was an employee of another clinic, operating their own clinic means longer hours spent working in the business is longer, and a longer list of responsibilities.

Since opening their shop, the two spent the summer engaging new customers and answering questions at the city’s First Friday event and judging a pet contest at the Prince William County Fair.

“For us, it’s about building trust,” said Samuel. “People want to come in and look around the clinic. They ask you if you live in the community or if you own a house here if you have children.”

The couple has four children, including two that help out around at the clinic part time, and another high school senior who wants to attend Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. She’ll eventually work in the clinic, the couple hopes.

“I can’t think of a better scenario for our clinic,” said Virginia, who emphasized the importance of running a family operation. “A popular trend right now is corporations buying independent veterinarians, and then the focus turns from what’s ‘best for the animal’ to ‘what’s best for the corporation?” I’ve seen people walk into a vet with their pet, and after so many tests have been ordered, the customer walks out with a bill for $900 for a muscle sprain.”

Virginia oversees the bookkeeping, billing, marketing, and overall office manager duties at the clinic. Her eclectic work experience includes operating a pet walking business, teaching religious education, teaching reading to public school children, to working in the fashion industry in New York City – all experiences she had before going into business with her husband.

Samuel studied at the University of Maryland, and at St. Georges University in Grenada before earning his vet degree.

The couple chose to open their business in Manassas because Virginia’s father owns the building where the clinic is located.

“About six years ago, my father was down about the future of his property because he didn’t see any opportunity for growth in Downtown,” said Virginia.

A Real Estate office occupied the building before the clinic and a construction contracting company before it. But then, something changed.

“You can tell the town is starting to come to life,” said Virginia. “There is what seems like a movement happening where there’s a focus on incubating businesses and holding events to bring people downtown.”

Today, the clinic offers a full range of veterinary services, serving about 250 clients. The couple aims to grow their client list to 2,000 in the next year, and hire more staff, and another vet to keep pace with demand.

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