By JOHN T. WARD
The new Immediate Care urgent-care center in Red Bank has all the markings of a healthcare industry play, suggesting teams of doctors pooling their resources to exploit an opening in the era of Obamacare.
But the brains behind the operation is actually a former print-shop owner who’s now on his third career, none of which required studying cadavers or using stethoscopes.
Sal Cannizzaro, a 56-year-old Brooklyn native, launched his first business — a label and box printing operation with the unglamorous name Innovative Folding Carton — when he was 24. By the time he sold it 14 years later, the company had grown to 270 employees, he told redbankgreen.
That year, 1998, he started SFC Enterprises, a commercial and residential real estate development business that bears his initials. How has that worked out for him? Well, in 2002, he paid $2.7 million for a waterfront home in the Locust section of Middletown. The palatial 16,000-square-foot home, dubbed “Villa Paradiso,” was featured on HGTV’s “Million Dollar Rooms,” and one of those rooms holds a 20,000-gallon aquarium. The township now gives it an assessed value of $5.6 million.
Cannizzaro’s turn toward the healthcare field began four years ago, when he opened the first Immediate Care facility in Hazlet. Like those that followed, the center provides walk-in services “for everything from slip-and-falls to colds and flu,” Cannizzaro said.
From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and until 4 p.m. on weekends, the centers see walk-in patients with non-life-threatening sports injuries, ear infections, blood-drawing prescriptions and other needs that can require hours to address in hospital emergency rooms, said Dr. Mary Ann Yehl, who serves as senior medical director for the Immediate Care chain.
“A lot of patients only have 15 minutes off from work” to deal with health issues, while others can’t be locked into a primary care physician’s rigid appointment schedule, said Yehl.
There are now four Immediate Care centers: the new one, at 46 Newman Springs Road, is the company’s second in Monmouth County. Two more are in Toms River and East Windsor.
So how did Cannizzaro get involved in the field?
“I’m fascinated with the model of urgent care,” he told redbankgreen last month, as finishing touches were being applied to the new center, in a space that was formerly home to a Fred Astaire Dance Studio. “I’m a busy guy. You don’t feel well? You want to get fixed right away.”
Cannizzaro is the chief executive officer of SFC, which builds the centers, handles the state licensing red tape and partners with urgent care physicians, who are responsible for staffing and running them. The pairing works, he said, because “doctors are not always savvy about running a business or expanding one. I take care of all that stuff they don’t do well.”
Cannizzaro said he’s still early on in his plan to scale up the operation, with centers planned for Marlboro, Lacey Township, Brick, Jackson and Edison.
“I’ll continue to put them in strategic locations to accommodate the populations of New Jersey and beyond,” he said. But first, he said, “I’d like to build in my own backyard until we reach saturation.”
“Sal is very energetic,” said Yehl. “He’s full of great ideas, but he’s also willing to try new things and take on new perspectives.”
It doesn’t hurt that he also “seems to have the golden touch,” she said.
His business interests are growing so rapidly that, through a corporate entity, Cannizzaro bought the Newman Springs Road building for $3.2 million earlier this year, and created both the new clinic as well as the headquarters for his corporation.