When the department store doubled as a dental office

In 1980, The National was intrigued by the prospect of a dentist setting up shop in a Toronto department store.

The location of Howie Rocket's dental clinic was unusual enough in 1980 to merit media coverage

The dental office in the department store

43 years ago
Duration 2:13
In 1980, Dr. Howie Rocket was providing dental care in what was then an unusual location.

Wicker baskets, outdoor jackets and dental care.

What do these things have in common?

They were all available in a Toronto department store in 1980, and that was seemingly newsworthy.

"Some American department stores have had dentist offices for a few years," reporter Lorraine Kimel told viewers on The National in September of 1980.

"But a Toronto dental entrepreneur — staggered by figures that show only one in three people sees a dentist regularly — figured perhaps department store dentistry might get more Canadians to care for their teeth."

A 'less intimidating' atmosphere?

Youngish man with dark hair
Dr. Howie Rocket believed having a dental office located in a department store would make it a less intimidating atmosphere for patients to attend to their dental care. (The National/CBC Archives)

Dr. Howie Rocket suggested a department store was a more inviting place to visit a dental office, as opposed to a traditional medical building.

"When they walk in and see a dental office which is right up to the department store ... it becomes less intimidating," Rocket said.

It seemed his patients agreed.

"I find it very convenient and it's closer to my home," said Marjorie McLeod.

Could it work for other services?

Reception desk amid store surroundings
The Tridont clinic that The National visited in 1980 was located near the wicker furniture section of an unnamed Toronto department store. (The National/CBC Archives)

Kimel said it was Rocket's belief that the same arrangement would work for the delivery of other professional services, too.

"Why not be able to be able to stop in at your lawyer's [office] ... or say, get a physical in the middle of that Thursday night shopping spree?" said Kimel.

The National did not name the department store where Rocket's clinic was located. The following year, however, the Toronto Star reported he had several clinics at department stores, including at a Woolco store in Toronto.

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