Dr. Ashley Simpson: A Thread Capital Resilient Recovery Success Story
Dr. Ashley Simpson always knew she wanted to work in a small town. Even when she graduated from chiropractic school in South Carolina in 2012 and moved to Durham to work in a chiropractic office as an independent contractor, she looked for practices for sale near New Bern, North Carolina, her hometown.
In 2013 she found a chiropractic doctor in downtown Trenton, about 24 miles southwest of New Bern, who was selling his practice.
She bought the practice in Trenton, then a population of 300. With the established practice, she inherited the retired doctor’s patients and equipment, and changed the name of the practice to Trenton Chiropractic Center.
“I fell in love with the town and people immediately and have been here since,” Dr. Simpson says.
Sandwiched between farming land and the Trent River, downtown Trenton has all of the things she needs. Her pharmacy, lawyer, bank, post office, and favorite barbeque restaurant are all within walking distance from her practice.
Many of her patients, however, don’t experience that same convenience to get access to healthcare. Dr. Simpson is the only chiropractor in Jones County.
Dr. Simpson saw the medical center in downtown close two years after she took over the practice. The closest medical facility to Trenton is in Pollocksville, about 12 miles southeast of Trenton, and the nearest pediatrician and dentist offices are in Maysville, about 20 miles southeast of Trenton.
“There’s a need here,” Dr. Simpson says. “People have to drive out the county for so many things—groceries, work, and medical care. Having a chiropractor in town is more than just a short drive for patients. It’s about having care close enough that it is not a burden to them.”
That’s why she stayed in Trenton with the volunteer EMS squad in September 2018 when Hurricane Florence sat above Eastern North Carolina for two days.
“I wanted to be down here in case we had something come up,” Dr. Simpson says.
During those two days, the Trent River swelled. Storm surge, 20 inches of accumulated rain, dangerous winds and historic flooding in Trenton made it impossible for Dr. Simpson to visit her practice for almost two weeks. Many areas of Jones county were without water and electricity for almost a week.
The EMS squad couldn’t send out volunteers during the storm because of the risk of injury. After the storm passed, Dr. Simpson helped with recovery efforts—distributing MREs (military rations) and bottled water; checking in on residents, especially the elderly.
When she returned to her building, she found dead fish on the sidewalk in front of her business. Everything in the building was ruined, except for her laptop. In the weeks that followed, her family helped her rip out the flooring and walls.
She ran her practice from her uncle’s chiropractic practice in New Bern for a few weeks after the storm. She even made house calls for a few patients, some of whom still had their homes flooded so she treated them on their porches.
The practice is located in large brick building, in between the town hall and Jones County Tire & Wheel Alignment. For now the building is locked and there’s a sign on the window that says, “We are temporarily located in Realo Discount Drugs.” That’s where Dr. Simpson and her therapist have been running the practice, a few steps away from her building.
While she worried about how she was going to reopen her building, she also worried about her patients’ homes.
“It’s not just somebody that gets on my table and I give them an adjustment. I like the fact that I can ask somebody, ‘Oh, how’s your new horse doing?’ These are people that might come in to see me, they pay for their adjustment but they also bring me eggs from their chickens that just started laying. I want them to come see me, but I want to make sure that they’re able to stay here. This is their home,” Dr. Simpson says.
It’s been almost a year since the hurricane. The inside of Dr. Simpson’s building doesn’t have drywall yet. The plumbing and insulation are visible. But there is electricity and the air conditioning works.
Dr. Simpson was renting the building where she ran her practice, but after it flooded the retired doctor sold it to her for a fair price. Her costs went up exponentially when she bought the building.
The journey to restoring her building has been a challenge.
She was paying for repairs out-of-pocket until she received a Resilient Recovery loan from Thread Capital. The loan provides long-term funding to small businesses that have suffered significant economic and physical damage because of a natural disaster. Before she found Thread Capital, she sought funding from FEMA, SBA, and even a traditional bank loan. She came to the same frustrating roadblock every time: student loans.
The student loans she acquired to get her doctorate increased her debt-to-income ratio, making her look like a risky investment to a traditional bank.
“I’m just really grateful for Thread Capital,”Dr. Simpson says. “I could not have done this without them. I feel like they didn’t just look at one or two points on a QuickBooks spreadsheet. They tried to get a picture of who I was a whole. It wasn’t just about ‘We’re giving you this loan so we can make money back,” but ‘We care about these small businesses in North Carolina and we know that they make an impact in their community and we want that to continue.’”
With the Resilient Recovery loan, Dr. Simpson will buy drywall and flooring to finish repairing the building and some new equipment. Dr. Simpson says she hopes to be back in her building in a few months. And she plans to stay in the community she loves.
Many of the businesses in downtown did not have flood insurance before the hurricane making it even more difficult to re-open. She’s seen at least two business close in downtown.
“There’s still a lot of people who did stay. Hurricanes are going to come again, but this is home to a lot of people. That’s really important to them, not just to get back in their building again but to be around the people they care about,” Dr. Simpson says.
For more information about Thread Capital’s Small Business program, reach out to the team directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.