The Sears family celebrated the centennial of their dental practice last week with friends and family at a party held at the practice’s office in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Held Thursday, June 14, the event featured live music and food, and allowed the family the opportunity to interact with several of their patients from over the past 100 years.
“This celebration is about y’all,” Dr. Don Sears said at the celebration. “Every day as we wander the halls of our office and we see you guys, we have a very deep sense of gratitude. Today, we really have it, and it’s wonderful. We love you guys.”
The family dentistry started in 1918 when Don’s father, Dr. Andy Sears, moved to Jacksonville after World War I and established the practice downtown. In 1938, Andy purchased the family’s house on Duval Drive in Jacksonville Beach — which was then part of Ponte Vedra Beach — and commuted to the practice’s various downtown locations over the years. His sons, Don and Wally, joined the practice, as well as Don’s wife, Kim, and they ultimately moved the business to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1992. Dr. Kane Sears, the son of Don and Kim and the third generation of Sears dentistry, joined the practice in 2016 after graduating from the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry.
“I feel honored to walk into this practice,” Kane said. “When I walked in here, I met friends and patients, just because my last name was Sears. That doesn’t mean anything about me. That means something about my family, my grandfather, my uncle and of course my parents.”
According to Kane, the “secret sauce” for staying in business this long is simple.
“You treat them like a person, not a patient,” he said. “These aren’t patients anymore. They’re friends. They’re not colleagues or referral bases. They’re friends. That’s pretty cool for me.”
Kim added that family values, integrity and honesty are important to the practice’s sustained success. She also noted that the office has treated patients at any time of the day or night if they’re in need.
“We get up at any time of day,” she said. “We care, and we go down to that office.”
Over time, the Sears family has seen multiple generations of families on the First Coast. Kane said one of his patients has a grandmother who came to the practice and now a child who is a patient, spanning four generations altogether. He’s even seen several people who used to see his grandfather, such as Gate Petroleum founder Herb Peyton, who said at the party that Dr. Sears pulled his wisdom teeth when he was 16.
“They’re telling me stories about how valiant of a man he was,” Kane said. “I’m seeing his work and his effect on people years later, which is pretty amazing.”
Since the Sears’ arrival to the First Coast, the family has also been deeply immersed within the community. During the celebration, Don noted that his father was the second president of the Ponte Vedra Community Association. Now, Don is active in the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach and Kane in the Beaches Rotaract Club. The family also founded an annual summer surf camp for children with autism, which this year will be held June 26-27 in Neptune Beach.
“This is our home,” Don said. “This is a special place, and it’s a blessing to be here.
“This whole thing started with our friends and relatives,” Don continued. “We’re trying to keep the place going. You all have made it happen. We indeed have something to celebrate today.”