How the Brown family took senior care beyond ‘the home’ with Village Concepts

Village Concepts Chief Operating Officer Stuart Brown holds a picture of his grandfather and company founder, William Brown, in his office in Auburn.

Stuart Brown can remember running through the hallways of Village Concepts’ El Dorado West assisted living facility in Burien as a 10-year-old getting butterscotch candies from residents while his father met with the building director.

Now Brown is the assisted living management company’s chief operating officer, and wanders those hallways visiting with residents, thinking about his grandfather, Bill Brown, who co-founded the company with El Dorado in 1975 and was able to move there toward the end of his own life.

“It was a full circle. He created El Dorado West and lo and behold, 40 years later, he needed it himself,” Brown said. “It was nice to be there for him when he needed it.”

Village Concepts is a third-generation, family-run company based in Auburn that operates 17 facilities housing 1,529 seniors. That is more than double the number of residents from 10 years ago and the company is still growing with its 18th location in the early stages of development in Renton.

Technically a management company owned by Stuart Brown, CEO Steve Brown (Stuart’s father), Rick Brown (Steve’s brother) and Chief Financial Officer Pete Jorgensen, Village Concepts reported $2.7 million in revenue last year.

Their 17 facilities pulled in $37.5 million in revenue last year, up from $21.8 million in 2008 when there were 12 locations. Most of the properties are owned by a combination of Village Concept owners, other family members and individual investors.

When Stuart Brown was in school at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to work for the family business — he was thinking about a career in hotels. He considered transiting to the family business later in his life, but Jorgensen approached him before graduation and convinced him to join the family business.

Brown stepped into an administrative assistant role straight out of college eventually moving up to executive director of one of the facilities and then two before becoming chief operating officer in 2007.

Stuart Brown and Jorgensen have been running the company since roughly 2007 when Steve Brown started transitioning to more of an adviser, Stuart Brown said.

“He still continues to operate as sort of a mentor for us,” Stuart Brown said about his father. “He is still involved, but not operationally.”

Village Concepts dates back to 1975, when brothers Bill and Ron Brown built El Dorado West.

The two of them built and operated senior living facilities before creating what would become Village Concepts.

They were trying something different at a time when senior care was still pretty restricted to nursing homes. Stuart Brown said the founders thought it was important for seniors to have a place to go when they didn’t need much medical help, but perhaps some social atmosphere and a little extra help with housework.

“Grandpa wanted to help people have another choice,” Stuart Brown said.
“Communities now have amenities and are not just ‘the home.’”

Under his leadership, Stuart Brown has made sure that legacy continues, especially in the face of increased competition in the senior living industry, he said.

To set the company apart, one area Brown focused on as he stepped into the leadership position was affordable senior housing. Four of the 17 current facilities are income qualified housing, for example.

Lauri St. Ours is the director of government and legislative relations for the Washington Health Care Association and has worked with Village Concepts for more than a decade. The consistency in the family-owned leadership for the last 40 years as well as its focus on affordability set the senior living company apart from the competition, she said.

“Village Concepts understands residential care must be affordable if it is to be accessed by consumers,” she said. “In Moses Lake and Auburn, they recognized the need for affordable senior housing, and have successfully developed two in-demand properties.”

While Stuart Brown grew up around the senior assisted living community, he said it was never expected of him to join the family company.

But once he did, he said his dad told him he wouldn’t be able to sail through without giving it his all.

“My dad told me early on, ‘You’ve got to be the best or I’m going to have to let you go,’” Brown said. “There wasn’t the pressure to do it, but if I was going to do it, I’d have to be the best.”


Village Concepts

  • Family members: CEO Steve Brown, COO Stuart Brown and Vice President of Development Rick Brown
  • First facility: El Dorado West in 1975
  • Facilities: 17 with one under construction in Renton
  • Facility revenue: $37.5 million in 2017
  • Residents: 1,529

Lessons Learned

  • “Balance personal relationships with business relationships. Work is stressful and there will be disagreements. Ensure you and the family keep the respect and communication level high to avoid uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinners.”
  • “Ensure the values of the family are maintained in business decisions and practices.”
  • “Make sure non-family employees feel valued and part of ‘the family.'”

Local seniors sell themed calendars for Alzheimer’s charity

Juanita Oney plays Marilyn Monroe for the calendar photo shoot. Courtesy of Jennifer Angell

So far, seniors from the Spiritwood at Pine Lake Assisted Living home have raised more than $1,500.

The Spiritwood at Pine Lake Assisted Living home has raised more than $1,500 in their most successful fundraiser yet, with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Association.

Jennifer Angell, marketing director at Spiritwood organized a Hollywood-themed calendar inviting local seniors to dress as historic celebrities and characters. Three boxes of calendars sold out within four days and Angell is currently ordering more boxes.

“I thought it would be something that would get [seniors] involved,” Angell said. “My boss said, ‘Jennifer, this is the best project we’ve ever done.’ It’s been really good.”

Angell handles the costuming and photos herself, and has involved numerous resident seniors at Spiritwood.

“When asked by Jennifer to be a part of the calendar, I didn’t want to be bothered,” said Jack Guptil, 83, who was in the “Blues Brothers” photo shoot. “But when I saw how much fun people were having being someone else, I said that’s me. Elwood from the Blues Bros.”

Spiritwood seniors have also posed as Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood, Marilyn Monroe and re-enacted the chocolate conveyor belt scene from “I love Lucy.”

The calendar project is one of many that Angell has worked on over the past year she’s been at Spiritwood.

“I’m just trying to think out of the box and do different things,” Angell said. “I want to earn as much money as I can for the Alzheimer’s Association… plus it’s fun for the seniors. I don’t want them being bored.”

According to Angell, she gets free reign in organizing fundraising projects and enjoys being able to get creative.

“Being able to do things that normally at a corporate level you’re not able to do… that’s priceless, right?” Angell said. “The number one thing is that all of this is for an amazing cause, and I’m just glad we were able to earn that money for Alzheimer’s Association — that’s the bottom line.”

One of her favorite recent fundraising projects was a dating game night she set up as a fun event for Spiritwood seniors. Several officers and firefighters from Eastside Fire & Rescue, Issaquah police and Seattle Fire Department played eligible bachelors and took turns asking the local seniors, who played bachelorettes, various questions before picking their favorite one to join them at a special dinner table at the living home that night.

Each of Angell’s projects is nonprofit, and the fundraising is the main focus, along with helping local seniors have some fun.

“Next I’m doing a s’mores night,” Angell said with a laugh. “Everyone’s doing table-top s’mores and telling ghost stories… It’s something the families enjoy as well as the residents.”

Angell plans to continue organizing these fun fundraisers for local seniors, and anyone interested in purchasing a calendar can contact her at 425-313-9100 or

“The [residents] are absolutely loving it,” Angell said. “We all have a great big hoot out of it… I could give all my time to this place every single day. I just enjoy helping — they’re like my family.”

Senior community will overlook 9th hole at Fairwood golf club

The building will have 115 senior units, some overlooking Fairwood Golf & Country Club.

Active seniors may want to check out Village Concepts’ new community: It’s on 3 acres adjacent to the 9th hole at Fairwood Golf & Country Club in Renton.

Village Concepts and partners Marathon Development and Rush Development Co. broke ground on the $36 million project last week. Village Concepts of Fairwood is off 140th Avenue Southeast.

Stuart Brown, COO for Village Concepts, said they expect many seniors living there will be in independent units because of the country club and its 18-hole golf course, swimming pools and dining room. The site is also near a library, grocery and other retail.

Residents will get discounted membership to the club, but the complex will also have a wellness center, activity center and salon. Brown said about 20 percent of the 115 units will be occupied by people needing assisted care and another 20 percent by people who need memory care.

Units will range from 300 to over 900 square feet, with rents between $2,900 and $6,000, depending on location and services. The units will be in a single building of about 107,500 square feet.

The project is expected to open in early 2020, and be operated by Village Concepts, which is an owner along with Marathon and Rush.

Rush Commercial, the construction arm of Rush Companies, is the general contractor. Rush Development is also an arm of Gig Harbor-based Rush Companies.

Wattenbarger Architects of Bellevue is the designer. Other team members are: Yu & Trochalakis, structural engineer; CEKO, civil engineer; Abossein Engineering, MEP engineer; Richard Ward Associates, landscape architect; Smith and Greene, kitchen designer; Earth Solutions NW, geotechnical engineer; and Technical Resources Consultants, specifications and technical resources.

King County records indicate Fairwood Assisted Living LLC bought the site last year for $2.74 million.

“We were excited when we found out (Fairwood) Golf & Country Club was interested in selling this piece of property,” Brown wrote in an email. “It’s a great location in Renton and very central to all of our other buildings here in the Northwest.”

Family-owned Village Concepts operates 17 senior communities across Western Washington.

Club general manager Anthony Paino said proceeds from the sale will be used to upgrade the golf cart fleet, add a new driving range cover, buy furniture, improve back-of-house operations and upgrade the HVAC.

Paino said the chipping/putting practice area may be expanded, and banquet and dining facilities may get an upgrade. The club, which opened in 1967, is not considering any other property sales at this time.