After 26 fruitful years operating in California, it's nearly time for Carroll and Dorothy Huff to start their next chapter.
The pair is set to retire together at the end of the month, handing over the reins of Huff Chiropractic Center — a practice they've operated since March 1995 — to a pair of the Center's current practitioners, Kennedy and William Juul, officially on May 1. A name change to Juul Spine and Sport will come with the shift in ownership.
"We have full confidence in the chiropractors that are taking over," Carroll said. "They're well-educated, and well-trained. I think they'll do a good service for the next 28 years."
Such confidence is likely a boon for the Juuls coming from Dr. Huff; Carroll's career has spanned even longer than Huff Chiropractic Center has been in California, nearly three decades. He started in the field after graduating in 1993, first opening a practice in Jefferson City and helping Dorothy's father at his practice in Tipton.
The pair would bring a practice to California in 1995, taking up position first on the downtown square. They've been here ever since, their next stop a move to Paul Bloch's building from 1999-2009, then to their current space.
The Huffs even spent some time living at the office, literally.
"Bought this building in 2009 and moved in here at the office, and then we moved ourselves in, too, in the back of the office in 2010," Carroll said. "And then we stayed here; we've been here ever since."
"Not living here, (though)," Dorothy said. "But we did live in the back (for a while). Five years."
The pair has since developed a hobby of moving often, spending time living in a home for a couple years while fixing it up and then flipping it. The plan is to keep it up during retirement; a house or two each year, Carroll said, at least while the pair feels physically capable of completing the work themselves.
All the while, though, the Huffs have remained in California. As a result, traveling is another part of the Huffs' retirement plans. The pair hasn't really ever been able to take much time off at once over the years, Carroll said. Save for a 10-day Maui trip in 2012, the eight-week closure forced by the COVID-19 pandemic was the longest amount of time Carroll and Dorothy had been off during their entire careers.
Retirement will also allow the Huffs to devote more time to their family. Though their four biological children are all grown, Carroll and Dorothy fostered and eventually obtained guardianship of their two younger children, who are nine and 14 years old respectively.
"That keeps us busy, too," Dorothy said. "It's kind of nice to be retiring and to be able to devote some more time to them."
With retirement just a few short days away, Dorothy said it's a "bittersweet" feeling that it's nearly time to close this chapter. She said the Huffs have gotten pretty close to their patients.
Carroll, meanwhile, said he thought one of the things that might hit him down the line will be realizing that he just doesn't see the familiar faces he's used to as much, since he tends to mostly just see his patients at the practice. The pair plans to stick around the neighborhood, regardless of future travel plans, but the dynamic will still be different, he said.
Dorothy described the Huffs as "old school" regarding some of the aspects of operating a practice; with technology for electronic health records and other documentation changing constantly, she said the pair felt it wasn't up to learning everything and patients thus would be better served by practitioners who were more up to speed regarding changes to the clerical side of the equation.
Carroll said, despite that, patient care has remained the same throughout the years. That's meant 28 years of complete adjustments — a "long time to be wrestling with people every day," Carroll said jokingly.
"Complete adjustment" means a full spine adjustment, rather than focusing more on one area of the body, a more common practice today, Dorothy said. It can be tiring work after that long a career.
"That's part of the reason; we're kind of worn out," Dorothy said. "And just being in health care is kind of stressful, too. But in a good way."
But it's been rewarding work, too, Carroll said. He pointed specifically to seeing patients be able to express visible relief following an adjustment, and being able to help patients even further using his psychology degree, talking to them about some of the stresses that may be leading to their need to get an adjustment in the first place. Plus, some patients have been visiting Dr. Huff for his entire 28-year career.
"I know their spine, and they know my adjustment, so it's like a relationship," Carroll said. "I'm going to miss that, and they're going to miss it, too."
The Huffs said they are appreciative to their patients, and are happy to have served the community. As the chapter closes on Huff Chiropractic Center, those who do stick around for adjustments at Juul Spine and Sport will technically become "new" patients as their records are entered electronically. Change, too, will come for the Huffs, who will soon fill their days with house-flipping and travel planning.
"We really want to emphasize that we have enjoyed working in this community," Dorothy said. "We've really grown fond of all of our patients. We'll miss them, and hope to see them out and about."