MANCHESTER -- When Jan Soderquist went to work for Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield more than three decades ago, she set out on a journey that would lead to the creation of a medical supply company now entering its second generation of family ownership in new and expansive headquarters.
REQ Rehabilitation Equipment Associates started in the Soderquists' Goffstown home, moved to leased space in a nursing home, then to a small office condo in a Manchester industrial park, and this month to a 28,000-square-foot building at 1015 Candia Road that had been the warehouse for Daddy's Junky Music.
Jan, her husband Karl, son Scott and daughter Kim will be joined by Gov. Maggie Hassan and other dignitaries in celebrating their grand re-opening at the new Candia Road location on Sept. 26.
After purchasing the building, the new owners completely gutted and renovated the first floor. The well-lit showroom full of tilting recliners and mobility equipment, the large area for inventory and a second story with office space and conference rooms is a far cry from the earliest days of the business, when the family's guest room was turned over to inventory and the rec room became an equipment repair shop.
What began as a one-person operation evolved into a business that now employs 30 full-time and, in recent years, has been growing 20 to 25 percent a year, according to Jan, who now serves as company CEO. Scott serves as president; Kim is treasurer and sales representative; and Karl is vice president and head of a division he created in the 1990s, Hubscrub, which offers cleaning and sterilizing technology for medical mobility equipment.
"It's been quite a journey, both from the business side and from the family dynamic side," Jan said.
"Anyone who's ever owned a family business understands the impact on the family dynamic," she said.
After working in the adaptive equipment lab at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield and at Keene Medical Products in Lebanon, Jan decided to set out on her own in 1983.
She was among the first women to be trained in power wheelchair care and maintenance, and had built up expertise and contacts. "I thought, 'If I'm going to work this hard, I might as well work for myself,'" she said. "I didn't realize how much harder I would work."
Karl's job at Digital provided some much-needed financial security for the family in the early years, when the success of the business was anything but certain. With family savings as startup capital, Jan incorporated REQ and spent the first years building contacts and serving a small number of clients.
In 1985, as the business grew, she leased space at the Moore General Hospital of Goffstown, which has since become a nursing home. That's when the business began to really grow and the first employees came on board.
In the early 1990s, with 10 to 15 employees, the company moved into a 2,400-square-foot office condo on South Willow Street, just in time for the real estate and banking collapse that precipitated a deep recession.
"We came close to failing several times," she said. "In the early to mid-1990s, the company was struggling." But the family persevered, and by 1998, with the economy in full recovery, they leased 7,000 square feet and eventually expanded to 14,000 square feet at 880 Page St., where they remained until moving into a space twice that size two weeks ago.
Scott said the real growth came as REQ expanded beyond rehabilitation equipment, into home-care accessories of all kinds, enabling patients with serious conditions to stay in their own homes and avoid costly hospitalization.
Much of the equipment is custom-built from components to suit individual needs.
"That's what catapulted us into a larger company," he said.
The celebration on Sept. 26, from 2 to 8 p.m., is more than just a grand re-opening for the Soderquist family. It's also a celebration of their success after three decades of hard work and investment.
"It took us 30 years to get to this point," Jan said. "We're quite excited about that."