By Sam Elliott
If you’re looking for a dentist in Fishers, a quick Internet search will give you countless results.
That wasn’t quite the case in 1986 when Dr. William Sauter founded Fishers Family Dentistry. He was the second dentist in a town of approximately 3,000 people.
“It’s grown from 3,000 to over 83,000 — they all have teeth and need a dentist,” Sauter said.
An Indiana University graduate who grew up in the area near 56th Street and Allisonville Road, Sauter came back to the area after eight years of practicing in Wisconsin to open Fishers Family Dentistry’s first location — where the Shell gas station currently sits at 8924 E. 116th St. — in May 1986.
“I went down and did some research at the library at the IU School of Business and even then the guy told me, ‘By the time the ink is dry for the numbers on Fishers, they’re outdated — it’s growing so fast,’” Sauter said.
Through a half-sarcastic recommendation from an area developer, Sauter wound up purchasing the old Christ Community Church building that used to be the Fishers Masonic Lodge and he, his father and a few contractors converted the building into his first practice.
“We grew right along with Fishers,” Sauter said. “We grew and grew. Then they widened 116th Street, they were planning a development and wanted my property. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
Through a connection made with a patient, Sauter bought the practice’s current property at 8410 E. 116th St. — which formerly housed a lawn mower repair shop — and moved Fishers Family Dentistry down the street in 1999.
Now, 30 years after first opening his practice in Fishers, Sauter has recently retired — though that doesn’t mean he doesn’t find himself with work to do.
“I’ve never been so busy,” he said. “I don’t know how I ever got anything else done. I’m doing a lot of different things. I’m flipping a few homes. I love to do carpentry and plumbing and work like that. I’ll buy an old place, fix it up and resell it just more for the fun of it than making a little money.”
He’s leaving Fishers Family Dentistry in capable hands — some of which have been on his staff for multiple decades. Kim Kelley, still with the practice, was Sauter’s first hygienist when hired in 1988.
“We’ve got multiple 20-plus-years employees here and you don’t find that in this industry very often. We can’t get rid of them,” Sauter said. “That makes everything so much easier … I always tell people this is my baby. I kind of grew it up from scratch and it’s a little hard letting it go and I miss the patients and the staff, but life is going on and things are going great. I’ve got nothing but good memories.”
Family’s next generation
While Dr. William Sauter has left big shoes to fill at Fishers Family Dentistry, Dr. Gregory Ryan and Dr. Scott Bassett are up to the challenge.
Moving into the practice’s current location brought even more patients, which led to Ryan joining the Fishers Family Dentistry family in November 1999.
“We were busy at the old office, but we moved here and I became swamped,” Sauter said. “We had a patient I was working on and it took a long time for him to get appointments for his series of treatments. He said, ‘Doc, you’re so backlogged, you need to hire my neighbor. He’s driving all the way to Layfayette everyday to treat patients.’ He kept bugging me, but I hadn’t really thought much about it, but I called Greg, we met, ate lunch and we seemed pretty compatible so we brought him in.”
“I had worked at other practices trying to find the right place for me and this is by far the most organized and highest qualified practice I had seen,” Ryan said. “It was a no-brainer for me to say yes to coming here. It’s been very good over the years and Dr. Sauter’s set the standard high. Our charge going forward is to maintain that and grow and get even better.”
Bassett first worked with the practice and impressed the staff during his externship for dental school at IUPUI, then was offered a full-time position following graduation in 2014.
“Scott came in and wanted to move to paperless computer charts right away,” Sauter said.
“I couldn’t read his handwriting,” countered Bassett.
“I hadn’t worked anywhere else and just coming in and having a long-term staff — most of them have been here 10 or 20 years — and not having a high turnover rate, it definitely helps the process of moving from school where you see two patients a day to seeing 15 or 20 patients a day,” he added.