AMERICAN CANYON — During business hours, American Canyon Orthodontics provides patients with braces for their teeth. But it’s what they do outside the dentist chair that gives people a big reason to smile.
Led by Dr. Jeffrey Nichelini, American Canyon Orthodontics has demonstrated time and again a generous spirit and a commitment toward helping the community.
It’s more than a business, both in regards to how they interact with patients and how they treat one another. It’s a family atmosphere at 3419 Broadway St. in the Canyon Plaza Shopping Center that makes everyone feel welcome and appreciated, if not loved.
“Dentistry isn’t just a business — it’s healthcare,” said Nichelini from his office while sharing a lunch of Thai noodles and entrees with his entire staff just before Christmas.
“I feel that the healthcare side is more important than the business side,” said the man who commonly goes by Dr. Nic. “Anything that goes into helping the community is win-win.”
A member of the Nichelini family that arrived in the Napa Valley more than a century ago, he grew up in Orange County, but frequently visited here and worked at the family winery.
His willingness to give back began in college. While attending the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, he worked in his spare time to establish a free dental clinic for homeless people in New York City.
During his four years of operating American Canyon Orthodontics, Dr. Nic has written sizeable checks to support local events and organizations, be it youth sports teams, the city’s annual 4th of July celebration, or Snow Day.
In fact, it’s fair to say American Canyon wouldn’t have Snow Day — which has become one of its biggest events — if it wasn’t for Dr. Nic.
“We affectionately call him Dr. Snow as he developed and presented the concept of Snow Day to us three years ago,” said Parks and Recreation Director Creighton Wright. “And even better, he offered to sponsor the snow.”
Wright said Dr. Nic “has been an ardent sponsor of anything community oriented.”
“We are lucky to have such a wonderfully friendly, community-oriented and giving spirit in American Canyon,” Wright said. “We truly could not offer some of the programs and events we do without his support.”
Dr. Nic’s generosity and caring have been demonstrated in other ways, too.
When the October wildfires broke out in Napa County and people couldn’t buy masks because local stores had sold out of them, American Canyon Orthodontics put in a rush order for a thousand masks and handed them out to anyone who asked for one.
When the American Canyon Family Resource Center put out a call for toys in December — saying they were running far short of what they need to bring Christmas to many poor children — American Canyon Orthodontics came through again.
“I checked with the boss and was given the ‘go’ signal, so I went shopping,” said Office Manager Christine Barnett, who purchased 85 toys and delivered them to the resource center.
That’s on top of the presents — 800 in all — that American Canyon Orthodontics gave out this holiday season to patients of all ages.
“You should see their faces,” said Barnett.
Dr. Nic is not one to gloat about his generous spirit. If anything, he tends to downplay his efforts.
“They’re not expensive presents,” he said of those placed under the Christmas tree in their lobby. “But we took the time to handwrap all of them.”
When the subject of American Canyon Orthodontics’ donation toward building a new clubhouse for the Boys and Girls Club came up, Dr. Nic again tried to diminish his philanthropy.
“Others gave more,” he said. “It was a small amount” we gave.
Barnett interjected, insisting the contribution was “pretty big.” Dr. Nic asked the amount not be revealed.
“He’s just being humble,” Barnett said of her boss. “He’s a very humble person.”
American Canyon Orthodontics also likes to help others help themselves to raise money for their organization or cause.
In addition to dentist chairs and tools, they have a popcorn machine, snow cone machine, hot dog machine and movie projector — all to rent free of charge. They even throw in all the food and supplies to go with the equipment.
“All they need to do is sell it, and they keep the money” for their cause, said Barnett.
Barnett and others who work for Dr. Nic say they enjoy working for him and the warm, familial atmosphere he has established.
“Yesterday I was sitting with a patient,” said dental assistant Christina Iovino, “and another patient came up behind me and kissed me on the cheek and wished me a merry Christmas. They just feel comfortable [here], and we’re a part of their family when they come in.”
Dr. Nic and his staff have also been good for the impressionable youth who work at American Canyon Orthodontics.
Dulcie Nobile got her first job there while attending American Canyon High School. It was a part-time gig that gave her a chance to make some money, learn about the dental industry, and grow into herself.
“I felt like I was part of a family,” said Nobile, a teenager raised by a single mom who spent part of her holiday break from Cal Poly Pomona back home and helping out last week at American Canyon Orthodontics.
“I loved coming to work,” she said. “I looked forward to coming here.”
Nobile is the first in her family to attend a university. She credited Dr. Nic with encouraging her to aim higher for herself.
While still in high school, Nobile was at first planning to attend only a community college. “I didn’t have the confidence in my grades” to go for more, she said.
But then Dr. Nic offered her some important advice.
“He said ‘Apply yourself,’” Nobile recalled. “He was probably the only adult to tell me that at the time of applying for colleges. Not even my family said do it. But it really helped me.”
“Now I can’t even imagine if I didn’t hear those words, or have all this wonderful help from all these adults,” she said, looking around at her former coworkers at American Canyon Orthodontics.
“I wouldn’t probably have pushed myself, and I would have regretted it,” she said. “I definitely look up to all of them.”
Dr. Nic noted that in between the charity and community support, they also do some good dentistry at his business.
“We don’t take anyone’s braces off until they’re happy, and I’m happy,” he said. “Hopefully, if you see kids smiling around town, our work speaks for itself.”
But he’s also proud of the workplace environment he’s fostered.
“I like that at six o’clock everybody still hangs out here and talks instead of running out,” he said. “At a lot of offices people are, ‘I want to get out of here.’”
Nobile remarked, “A lot of times we’re just sitting around talking about life.”
Barnett said, “We’re like an extended family from our own families. We spend most of our time here.”