Growing home health care agency is the main feature in old Ironton Theater
From the front porch of his house, RJ Egan can look across a vacant lot and see the old Ironton movie theater on Fourth Street.
Built in 1936, the building has been vacant for years and hasn’t provided cinematic entertainment for five decades, but the original brick facade still hangs above the front entrance and remnants of the theater’s operation are still visible inside.
While growing up in Ironton, Egan remembers the building fondly, especially after it was converted to a bowling alley in the 1960s. Now, Egan will appreciate the retired theater even more. He and Deb Zettervall purchased it this winter and are renovating it into office space for their growing business: Aide Home Health Care.
For Zettervall, the move won’t come soon enough. She and Egan started Aide Home Health Care five years ago and have been running it out of their home. But business has been so good that they no longer are able to both live and work in their house. Something had to give, and Egan said it was an easy decision to make.
“Going without a new building really wasn’t an option,” he said. “We needed to move.”
Last year, the couple approached the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation (BLAEDC) to explore financing options for an expansion plan.
Not only did BLAEDC staff agree that an expansion was needed, they also suggested available office buildings in the area that would accommodate the agency’s growth and arranged for a consultant from Brainerd’s Small Business Development Center to help with financial projections.
The thought of moving into the theater intrigued the couple, partly because the building is a stone’s throw from their house, but also because of the nostalgia that the old theater holds. And for Egan, the back of the building works well as storage for some vehicles he has accumulated over the years.
Initially, Zettervall and Egan started Aide Home Health Care to provide personal care services such as laundry, cooking, light housekeeping, shopping, transportation and other daily living activities. When they opened for business in 2008, they had four or five local clients and a handful of employees.
“Our main goal was to provide better service, especially to disabled people,” said Zettervall, a Brainerd native who worked for a home health care agency there for many years before moving to Crosby and opening Aide. “Nobody really provided home health care in the Crosby area. Now, we’re uniquely positioned to provide local services to local people.
“People are going on disability every day,” she added. “They’re hurt at work or they get various diseases or medical conditions. And when the Brainerd State Hospital closed, that left a lot of people needing services as well.”
Relying mostly on word-of-mouth advertising, business quickly grew, and requests for skilled nursing care started piling up. Last year, Zettervall and Egan were awarded a license to offer in-home private duty nursing for their clients. Although they have a registered nurse on staff, skilled nursing care requires licensed nurses to provide the care, so that’s an area that the company is growing slowly, Egan said.
For now, Aide’s 40-plus employees are concentrating on personal care services in the Crosby, Brainerd, Aitkin and Pequot Lakes markets, Egan said.
Most of the staff offer care to a single client and live fairly close by, to make sure they can respond to any unexpected needs in short order.
“We’re not trying to grow real fast,” Egan said. “Part of that is because we have trouble finding good help. We have good help now, and it’s easier to expand when you have good help.”
Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp.