On October 1, the lobby of the Elbow Lake Dental Center opened to the public for the first time since March. It seemed to be a good spot to sit down and talk to Dr. Orvin Leis, who is retiring from the practice. He just completed the sale of the business to Dr. Brady Weispfenning, who also started seeing patients that day. Leis had some time to reflect on his 40 years as a dentist.
“I knew Dr. Sauby quite well,” Leis said. Sauby was a long-time dentist in Elbow Lake. “I was friends with his son, Fred, and his mother was a Cub Scout leader in our troop, so I spent some time in their house.”
While the Leis family was well known in Elbow Lake for cars (Leis Motors was a fixture on the corner of 1st St. and 2nd Ave. for generations), Orvin tended to gravitate more towards science, chemistry and math.
He graduated from Elbow Lake/Wendell High School in 1972, and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, Morris, to work on a math degree. One day, he took an aptitude test that showed he would make a good dentist, so he submitted an application to the School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota, in the Twin Cities.
“They took me,” he said.
By 1980, he was ready to hang up his shingle, but tired of the Twin Cities.
“I wanted to get back to a rural setting, so I went to talk to Dr. Sauby, who said he had room for me.”
Leis found himself very busy very quickly and suggested to Sauby he expand his practice.
“Instead, Dr. Sauby asked me if I wanted to buy his practice. So I did.”
Dr. Sauby continued to work part-time at what was now Dr. Leis’ practice, until he passed away.
Interestingly, the dental chair Leis used in that office, which is now the home of the Grant County Herald, is still seeing use today at Elbow Lake Dental Center.
A larger, newer building, on West Division, became available in 1991 and Leis bought it, doing intensive remodeling and moving in two years later. His dental partner at the time was Dr. Smith, who has since taken up a practice in Battle Lake.
Dr. Leis and his wife, Donna, have four children: Alexandra, who is also a dentist, and after working with her father for a year, started a practice in the Twin Cities; Jon, who lives in Boise, ID, and designs for Micron Technology, Inc. a producer of computer memory and computer data storage; Elizabeth, who works in the financial services industry in the Twin Cites; and, Jacob, who lives in Maplewood, works for a medical device company.
“One dentist, two engineers, and one in finance,” Leis said proudly.
Alexandra and her husband have given her parents two grandsons, as well.
A couple of years ago, Dr. Leis decided he wanted to slow down a little. He was told by a consultant, that if he ever wanted to sell his practice, he needed to get started because it would take up to five years.
“But it went a lot faster than that,” Leis said. “Dr. Weispfenning will fit right in with this community, and I think people will really like him.”
Leis plans to still do some dentistry, on cases he wants to finish up. But he also plans to do more camping, play more golf, and gardening.
“Donna and I plan to stick around Elbow Lake, but we will get to visit the grandkids more.”