To Succeed, First
Be a Good Neighbor
Independent ECP keeps it PC (pro-community!) near D.C.
STORY BY DEIRDRE CARROLL
When Dr. Dora Adamopoulos began the search for a location for her first practice in Alexandria, VA, she had her own version of the three golden rules of retail to guide her: community, community and community.
It led her to the Del Ray neighborhood, a commuter suburb that The Washington Post once described as a pleasantly antiquated pocket “where Norman Rockwell would run out of paint within two hours.”
eye2eye Optometry Corner Hilltop
Owner: Dr. Dora Adamopoulos
Area: 2,254 square feet
Employees: 15 full-time, 2 part-time
Top Brands: Bevel, Face à Face, WOOW and Barton Perreira
“I was looking for a culture of local-minded folks who enjoy supporting independent businesses,” says Dr. Adamopoulos. “I wanted to find a strong community where I could grow, but also contribute.”
That desire to serve a customer base rooted in the local community remained a huge priority for her when she settled on a location for her second boutique, eye2eye Optometry Corner Hilltop, which is about 10 miles south of the original practice.
Dr. Adamopoulos fully believes her community is the reason she is in business. As such, giving back to the folks who support that business is key. “We try to find ways to give back that are important to our patients, such as the Wounded Warriors Project, participating in InfantSEE, supporting local school events and local folks in need.”
In keeping with the small-town tradition of Alexandria, eye2eye does its best to support smaller manufacturers, carrying products in a variety of price points, and with a focus on design aesthetic, quality and attention to detail. “Our customers like wearing a unique product that suits their lifestyle,” Dr. Adamopoulos explains. “And I like offering colorful, stylish and offbeat eyewear.”
Dr. Adamopoulos has been practicing for 18 years and her specialties continue to grow. “I enjoy seeing my usual patients, but branching out into fitting specialty contact lenses, nutrition and dry eye have made me feel I can continue to give back to my patients.”
And after eight years as a business owner, she’s learned a few things. First, treat your staff like family. “My staff is on the front lines of my practice, and they often have incredible insights into my business. Treating them like family means getting exceptional loyalty in return, and that loyalty is invaluable,” she says. What’s more, her staff is a valuable resource for her. “I have a staff that is very much on top of what’s happening in the fashion world and what’s happening on the technology side. I have learned so much seeing things through their eyes.”
While her staff has been steadfast, her client base can undergo change depending on the political climate. “Since we are so close to Washington D.C., a lot of our patients are involved in politics,” she says. It’s a point of distinction that her practice gets to know and assist some public figures and see them out of their normal element. It also presents some interesting challenges perhaps not normally faced by other eyecare businesses.
“Every time there is an election, there is the unknown right after,” she says. “People are on hold, many of their jobs are tied to the current administration. We also have a lot of military [personnel] and they are on a three- or four-year cycle. We have to work really hard to get new patients in. But it helps keep us fresh.”
Part of acquiring new patients is maintaining consistency. As such, eye2eye has retained a local marketing person to manage its social presence.
“Local people know where we live, where we work. Having that community input helps to keep the message the same. As a new patient scrolls our feed it is really important from a business point of view to continually talk about our story so that new people understand who we are,” she says.
As a business, eye2eye is constantly re-evaluating its vision and whether it is keeping up with its brand, as the practice grows.
But one part of her business will always remain consistent, she says. “You get back what you give; to your vendors, your patients, your community. If you don’t come full circle with those things you’re going to fail. It’s not just about opening a shop and going home at the end of the day; it’s about being integrated into your community.”
5 Cool Things About eye2eye Optometry Corner Hilltop
1 Dr. Adamopoulos opened this second location to address her migrating clientele. “Many of my patients were outgrowing their smaller Del Ray homes and moving away. We decided to follow them and open a second location to meet their needs,” she says.
2 The number one reason for scratched eyes in her practice? Cute babies and their tiny baby nails.
3 eye2eye participates in the Old Town Boutique Warehouse Sale, which features designer clothing and accessory boutiques. “It draws thousands of shoppers, often with long lines snaking down the block,” says Dr. Adamopoulos. “It is very popular in our area and garners significant earned media coverage.”
4 Active on several social media platforms, eye2eye regularly updates its blog with eye health tips, event information, and staff outings, all of which improve its SEO rankings.
5 eye2eye partners with local clothing boutique, Kiskadee, to merchandise the shop’s mannequins with their frames. They also host pop-ups for local designers without their own space. “We think it’s cool to find creative ways to support our community,” she says.
PHOTO GALLERY (25 IMAGES)
Our Judges* Say
I’m a sucker for a well curated, lifestyle brand focused Instagram! eye2eye’s Instagram gallery kind of made me an instant internet stalker. Kidding. Just following. Tanya Gill, OD, Oakland Vision Center Optometry
It’s awesome how involved they are in their community. Marc Franchi and Jason Stanley, STATE Optical Co.
It was so smart of you to participate in a local retail show. Many optical shops would not think of that, assuming that without prescriptions and appointments, the frames would be a moot point. Great way to prospect for new clients. Andrea Hill, Hill Management Group
*The stores profiled in this column are chosen from among the “honorable mentions” in our annual America’s Finest Optical Retailers contest. Like to see your store featured in our pages? Be sure to enter next year’s contest.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 edition of INVISION.