Think back to 1988: It was a leap year that gave us the Winter Olympics in Calgary and the Summer Olympics in Seoul. Rain Man won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Microsoft launched Windows 2.1. Closer to home, the St. Louis Cardinals finished fifth in the NL East and shortstop Ozzie Smith received his ninth Gold Glove. In October of that same year, a group of enterprising 30-somethings—Charlie Deutsch, Bob Leonard and David Smith—opened The Gatesworth and added a fourth person, executive director Martha Kessel, to its management team.
Co-owner David Smith says from the very beginning, the team’s vision was to create one of the best retirement communities in America. “When we looked at what options were available to seniors 22 years ago, they were fairly limited,” he explains. “The apartments were small, and the services were regimented and institutionalized.” Smith notes that even during The Gatesworth construction, they stopped in the middle to create a new floor plan in response to the demand for larger units. “From that point on, The Gatesworth has evolved by listening to residents and continuing to add services and amenities based on what they tell us.”
Smith says many of the signature amenities The Gatesworth is known for were born out of resident wants and needs over the years. “We have a saying here, The answer is always yes. What’s the question?,” he beams. “It just means that whatever it is the resident wants, we can find a way to satisfy it.” He adds that The Gatesworth’s staff of 260-plus employees live by this ‘resident-centered’ model day-in, day-out. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being locally owned and operated, and that means we’re available to hear what our residents have to say.”
Drawing on constant resident feedback has inspired purposeful growth in the programs, services and amenities offered by what has come to be known as The Gatesworth Communities, Smith says. McKnight Place Extended Care and McKnight Place Assisted Living were added to the One McKnight Place Campus in 1994 and 2002, respectively, in response to a need for higher levels of nursing oversight for some aging residents. In 2004, Parc Provence in Creve Coeur was opened to serve those suffering from memory loss. The Gatesworth’s most recent addition, The West Wing, was built to accommodate a growing wait list and residents looking for larger, more luxurious homes.
Smith says he likes to think of The Gatesworth as a “parked cruise ship” with amenities that rival those at top tier hotels and resorts. For example, in addition to continuous dining at The Gatesworth’s three restaurants, hotel-style room service is offered or the chef is available to prepare meals in individual residences. Personal trainers are on hand to supplement group exercise classes. A concierge and personal shopper are part of the staff. And a third limousine has been added to accommodate increasing demands for service.
Much has happened since 1988, yet much has remained the same. “The expectation is that we continue to listen and learn from our residents—and we do,” Smith says. “Because we have a continuity of ownership and a large percentage of our staff has been at The Gatesworth for 10 years or more, we’ve been involved in the lives of residents and their families. And most of the residents here feel the same way, that we’ve enhanced their life experience. That’s part of the payback. I get hugs and kisses just walking down the hall. How many landlords can say that?”