Former Peoria Golden Corral to become medical clinic targeting seniors

PEORIA – To hear Phil Caplis say it, running a doctor’s office isn’t much different from running a restaurant.

From a screening point of view, the options Solvera Health offers its patients could be the medical equivalent of Golden Corral Buffet & Grill.

Until last summer, that’s what had stood for about a decade in the 12,000 square foot building at 3525 N. University St. in Peoria. From October 25, it will be the home of Solvera Health, a primary care facility.

In addition to medical practices, Solvera Health will include diagnostic testing facilities and laboratories, physiotherapy equipment and a pharmacy. Eventually, the ability to perform computed tomography and computerized mammograms is expected.

All of these services must be performed on site.

“I love this concept,” said Barb Barnewolt, a pharmacist from Solvera Health who previously worked at a supermarket pharmacy in Galesburg. “Healthcare is broken in some ways, so we’re here to fix it.”

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The target audience is Medicare beneficiaries, but all are welcome, according to Caplis. He suggested that Solvera Health’s one-stop-shop aspect could be particularly appealing to older people.

“Your primary care doctor can handle a lot of things. It’s just that they don’t. They pay it to the specialists,” Caplis said. “(The) hospital systems are great in the city. But you have to negotiate a lot of construction, a lot of cities. When you’re older it’s a big deal.

“We think we can take care of you here for 85% of your needs. And if you need a specialist, we’ll find one for you.”

An open house is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on October 21.

“This is what would help the community the most”

Caplis’ business experience is in the food service. He has owned several restaurants over the past decades in and around Peoria, including Geo’s Pizza and Two25.

Indoor dining restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic may have hampered its Golden Corral buffet operation the most. In August 2020, he closed for good.

When considering what to do with the shuttered Golden Corral building, Caplis recalled a conversation a few years earlier with a friend who had an idea for a full primary care facility.

It seemed more appealing to Caplis than looking for another restaurant or converting the building to some other form of real estate.

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“You don’t need office space in Peoria,” Caplis said of his options. “You don’t need commercial restaurant space. You just don’t need it. It’s everywhere.

“So we said, ‘What would help the community the most? “And that’s what would help the community the most.”

Caplis was familiar with the healthcare industry. His family operated for a long time Great Lakes Laboratories in Valparaiso, Ind. He specializes in drug testing and forensic testing.

For this and other reasons, going from cooking the roast to collecting blood samples wasn’t too complicated.

“I said to my family, ‘We have to reinvent ourselves,’” Caplis said. “We are entrepreneurs. We are a family of entrepreneurs.

“Business is the same. It doesn’t change. … You have to manage inventory. You have to keep the costs in line. You have to be system oriented. Sometimes your systems get in the way of that hospitality. That’s what we don’t want to happen here. “

The possible extension has ready-to-use locations

Son Patrick is part of the Caplis family of entrepreneurs, who was a director at Two25 and will be director of operations at Solvera Health. His brother Matthew will oversee the organization of the facility’s electronic medical records.

Solvera Health is also setting up a 24-hour call center in West Peoria, which patients can use when they need help at odd hours. This could pave the way for the expansion of the concept, if the Peoria outlet proves successful.

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Already, Caplis has arranged for a doctor in Carbondale to operate under the Solvera Health banner. There seem to be plenty of other prime locations Caplis is familiar with.

“There are quite a few Golden Corrals closed all over the country,” he said. “These are great places – busy streets, lots of parking lots. A lot of (old people) have come here for lunch or dinner, so they already know where it is.

“Although they will not receive food, they will simply receive health care.”

Nick in the morning

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