50/30 Sparklysmile’s Double Celebration
Blackheath Village is a unique community in South East London, as anybody knows who has lived there or even passed through it. Businesses and restaurants come and go, and change hands and faces, and in recent months there have been many changes. However, when it comes to the village dentist, there has been one family business in the village, and in 2018 it proudly celebrates fifty years.
It was 1968 when Jo Eisenberg first arrived in Blackheath, and took over a dental practice from a Mr Stab, up at No 34 Blackheath Village [see photo, now where Blackheath Locksmith’s is]. Jo had grown up in Salford, North of Manchester, and after graduating from the University Dental Hospital of Manchester, came south and worked in Knightsbridge and then Plumstead. He soon established a standing room only following in Blackheath and realised he needed larger premises. Jo moved to the larger premises at 19 Montpelier Vale, the current site of the practice, in 1974.
1970’s London was a groovy place, inspired by the forward thinkers of the 60’s such as Vidal Sassoon and Terence Conran. With the help of friend and architect Gerry Deitch, Jo Eisenberg used the darkened glass of the Sassoon hairdressing heritage, chose big quarry tiles for the floor, and took the idea for the wooden staircase and panelling from the interiors of North Several, SE3. North Several, otherwise known as the “glass houses on the heath”, was designed by architect Royston Summers and was where Jo lived with his young family. Fifty years later, and the style of 19 Montpelier Vale has been updated, yet these design features remain the same, and they still look fresh and original. From the front, the practice still looks exactly as it did in 1974 – and still entirely different from other dental practices. But don’t be fooled: behind this unique exterior you will of course find a dental surgery fitted out with the latest equipment, and a staff with knowledge of all the latest techniques within the industry, now run by Phil Eisenberg, Jo’s son.
So how did 19 Montpelier Vale evolve into what you see today?
Jo’s room soon became known for its ceiling of butterflies. After all, a patient has to have something to look at when he or she is lying on his or her back and trying not to think of what is happening inside their mouth. Jo bought a new boxed butterfly on his weekly weekend trip to Harrods and continued to buy them until the ceiling was covered. Many patients remember the butterflies with much pleasure. When Jo retired in 2011, he gave away the butterflies to his last patients.
The surgery was also memorable for other photographs and objects. Who remembers that iconic poster of a smiling Farah Fawcett Majors, which was posted up on the pin board which covered the entire wall upstairs (outside what was then Jo’s surgery)? She really was the 70’s pin up with the most beautiful pearly whites. In fact Phil has had one reprinted quite recently, to inspire future generations. Around her poster, Jo pinned up photographs of himself and the family – much to the embarrassment of some of the family members – but it’s exactly this personal touch that stays in people’s minds. Phil’s current staff members wonder why there are so many pictures of him around the building, and now they know why.
And what about the giant brown bear cuddly toy that used to be in the front window for many years? He was much admired, and ended up auctioned at a local school.
This is also where you will find lots more art and a treasure trove of tooth-related props to pose with. Above all, Phil’s aim is always to make his patients look and feel great. That feeling of self-confidence starts with a healthy smile looking back at you in the (recycled tyre) mirror.
The team has of course changed over the 50 years. In the photographs you can see some of the early faces that you may have come across if you have lived in Blackheath for a long time. Some of the existing team members have been around for almost as long as Phil, and may know more about you than your family do. The evolving team have one thing in common though – they all believe that being part of Sparklysmile and its extended family is as important to your welfare as the dentistry that they provide.
And the team is not just those people that you see or meet on a regular basis.
Lydia, Nilesh, Stella, Esther, Bernadette and Patricia, supported by Jane, Joanne, Alice, Michelle, Nancy, Anima and Srijana are the visible faces of Sparklysmile that Phil cannot do without. Of course, there are many more backstage too such as Karen, who keeps everything neat and clean, Micky, who keeps the place running, Peta at Nash Design, who keeps our website and design looking fresh, and the dental technicians whose artistry makes sure you look your best.
One of Peta’s first touches was to bring the scrapbook smile of Marilyn Monroe to the practice. The idea of someone tearing out a picture of a smile they wanted and bringing it to show their dentist – just as they would take a cutting from a magazine to a hairdresser – was the theme for that design. And now Phil is delighted to have Marilyn back again, in the flesh, livening up the waiting room.
Some say that Phil is only celebrating thirty years, that it doesn’t feel that long when you compare it to Jo’s fifty – but he has no plans to go anywhere, and they have recently secured the lease for another 20 years. I sense a competitive streak in Phil! The building is clearly part of the team too, and it is somewhere that Phil has felt is a comfortable place to go to ever since he was a teenager back in 1974. They really hope that you will feel comfortable and at home when you visit them.
If you have any photographs of Jo, Phil and the team over the years then please do bring them in – they would love to add them to their collection. And when passing by, please come in to collect one of their celebratory tote bags.
You will probably find Phil in his white Jeans – this was Jo’s uniform when Phil first started at the practice and, like a dental version of Samson, he feels he can’t work any dental magic unless he is wearing them.
It is a privilege for everyone at Sparklysmile to provide dental care for the same families that Jo used to treat, and to still know and treat the children and grandchildren of some of the patients who go way back to the beginning. It feels quite right to do this on the same premises at 19 Montpelier Vale, where they love to be, right at the heart of your community in Blackheath Village.
Phil, Jo, and all at Sparklysmile, would like to thank you for the fifty-year-long support.
Here’s to the next fifty years of Sparklysmile. They really do care about you and your teeth.
Phil inherited his dad’s interest in dentistry and, graduating from Guy’s Hospital in 1988, joined the practice the same year – thirty years ago! Like his father before him, Phil was not only interested in teeth. He also loves art and design, as you can see when you enter the practice. This is a good tip for you artists out there, as he likes to commission new art works from interesting people, from street artists to journalists to friends, many of whom start out as patients. Then there are those who start out as friends, and turn into patients. The walls (and ceilings) of Sparkly Smile are like Phil’s personal art gallery, but the exhibition is above all for patients to enjoy when they have a dental appointment. Some of the pieces of art might even make you SMILE – which, after all, is what Sparklysmile is all about. Like the butterflies, the art distracts you from the traditional dental world, the artworks amuse and entertain, and some of them make you think. The common denominator is that they all have something to do with lips, mouths or teeth.
It is not just smoke and mirrors though, the team at Sparklysmile are serious about your dental health and well-being. You will feel secure that you will receive the most modern dental and orthodontic treatment by a sympathetic, established local team, who employ leading-edge strategies to help you keep your teeth for life.
I’m convinced that when Phil recruits for new team members, one of the prerequisites (right after their interest in a healthy mouth) is that they share his interest in art and design. All of the team have their favourite pieces of art. For instance, Lydia likes the recycled tyre mirror, Bernadette likes the George Nelson clocks and Joanne, Michaela and Haley all like Buzz Lightyear – he is like one of the reception team, protecting them with his super powers.
Phil has his own list of favourites, of course, but if you ask him today, his personal favourites are: Lez Ingham’s Wonder Woman, bringing back memories of his early Saturday nights at home in the 70’s, The Red Neon Lips, that were one of his first commissioned pieces, and the SweetToof art that can be found in many parts of East London.
One of Phil’s first artistic touches was to commission some silk scarves by artist Tracey English and put them, instead of butterflies, on the ceiling of his surgery. You can still see them in the practice today.
Back in the 70’s practice, there was a fish tank in the front window. It’s fun to see how one tank of fish has now evolved into a permanent art exhibition. You can see a larger record of the art and artists below. Some of the artworks are not immediately visible on the premises at Sparklysmile, some are at Phil’s home, or upstairs in the office but no doubt Phil still has them tucked away somewhere.
If you would like Phil to consider a piece of your art for his walls, why not email him a photograph on firstname.lastname@example.org He can often find a wall in the practice to display it on.
If you are a patient, you will almost certainly know that Phil is also keen on photography. He or one of the team will no doubt have snapped your teeth, maybe to show you the improvement between your ‘before treatment’ and ‘after treatment’ portraits. If you have been upstairs to the consultation area, you might have glimpsed the equipment he has for taking such great shots of your teeth.
Sparklysmile’s favourite art:
Esther says her favourite is the silk scarf on the ceiling in room 1. ‘It tells the story of the practice as it was when I started 14 years ago. My new favourite is the mirror in the waiting area upstairs made by Laura Zabo. I love her creative eco solutions turned in to art’. (laurazabo.com)
Bernadette says the picture of Prince in the office is her favourite art piece in the practice because ‘it reminds me of the person who painted it’ (Veronika, one of the nurses, painted it and she worked closely with Bernadette for many years). Bernadette also likes the George Nelson clocks that are scattered about the building – George Nelson was a designer in the 1940’s onwards and he also worked for the renowned Herman Miller design company that still runs today.
Joanne likes Buzz Lightyear as she loves Toy Story, and it brings out her inner child.
Buzz is Haley’s favourite too, but she sees it rather differently. Haley feels that Buzz is behind her all the way, protecting her with his super powers.
Srijana likes the scarf titled The Hygienists which is in her room, as it is appropriate for her role in supporting the hygienists throughout the practice.
Nancy and Anima like Wonder Woman the best. Nancy says it reminds her how wonderful she is, and Anima says that the children who visit love it.
Alice likes the pictures of when the team dressed up in 1950’s clothes because the photoshop enhancements on her were amazing, and it was a fun day. Thanks to Veronika at V’s Anchor Studio (vastudio.co.uk)
Michelle also likes those 50’s pictures as, she says, they just make her smile.
Jane likes the “man in the window.” You can see him when you are inside the office, and also when walking or driving past. He has been there a long time and people stop and take photos of him. He is iconic to Sparklysmile, and looks great when he is lit up at night.
Stella likes the 1000 Kisses by David Gerstein. Stella says that the big red lips with lots of smaller ones inside caught her eye the first day she walked in to Sparklysmile. ‘And of course, the man in the window that I saw before I even entered the building when walking down Montpelier Vale. It feels like he has been there since the start of Sparklysmile.’
Becky’s favourite is the Gerstein lips too – she likes the contrast of colours with the little lips inside it. Buzz comes a close second as she passes by him when she arrives into work.
Nilesh likes Wonder woman and Joker art pieces, being a fan of DC Comics and a superhero himself.