Area eating-disorder company extends national reach

"Theres no upward limit [to the companys expansion plans]. I expect to expand across the country, certainly." - Samuel Menaged, founder of the Renfrew Center, now at 15 locations
"Theres no upward limit [to the companys expansion plans]. I expect to expand across the country, certainly." - Samuel Menaged, founder of the Renfrew Center, now at 15 locations
Posted: September 17, 2013

Samuel E. Menaged was general counsel for a chain of psychiatric hospitals in the 1980s when a friend suggested that the company open a center to treat eating disorders.

Research convinced Menaged that his friend, a therapist in Boston, had a good idea, but the board of the Horsham company Menaged worked for rejected a proposal for a residential treatment center for such disorders.

Undeterred, Menaged quit his job in November 1983, drummed up financing - including some from a Yale University roommate - and pulled together staff to open the Renfrew Center on a 27-acre estate, known as Renfrew Farm, in Upper Roxborough.

"Within a year, we were break-even. Within two years, we were at capacity with a waiting list," he said Friday.

A second residential facility opened in Coconut Creek, Fla., in 1990, followed by centers for outpatient treatment in 11 states that offer lower levels of care for anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders.

This month, the company, still based in Philadelphia, will open its 15th location, in Towson, Md., Menaged said. A Boston facility is under construction, expected to open at the start of 2014.

"There's no upward limit," Menaged, 65, a Brooklyn native, said of the number of centers he might open. "I expect to expand across the country, certainly." He now has two children in the business but does not intend to retire.

Menaged, who said he owned 100 percent of Renfrew, made a mark in the world of eating disorders.

"Renfrew was one of the first treatment centers and has been a significant leader in promoting the needs of our field and the needs of the patients," said Lynn Grefe, president and chief executive of the National Eating Disorders Association in New York.

"They have also been committed to providing top-notch professional education through their annual conference," Grefe said.

It hasn't been entirely smooth sailing for Renfrew. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996, when its lender refused to renew a loan amid a health-care shake-up caused by managed care and the company had trouble refinancing. Renfrew exited bankruptcy in 1998.

"I would tell you that managed care was a blessing in some ways, or an eye-opener, because we were able to diversify and create other levels of care," Menaged said.


Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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