Going Up the Country

In Alma, GA, Family Vision Care has added a stunning new optical to a full-service optometry practice that’s been drawing patients from near and far for more than 60 years. 

As owner Dr. Blake Hutto somewhat modestly puts it, Family Vision Care “brings a touch of style to our small town” of Alma, GA. But it brings a lot more besides: cutting-edge design, medical and refraction-based optometry, and award-winning patient care that brings people in from far beyond the Bacon County line.

Family Vision Care
Alma, GA

Owner: Dr. Blake Hutto
URL: fvcalma.com.com
Opened: 1955
Year Renovated: 2016
Area: 4,000 sq. ft.
Employees: 9 full-time, 1 part-time
Top brands: Article One, L.A.M.B., Randolph Engineering, Kate Spade
Facebook: bakersfieldeyecare
Instagram: familyvisioncarealma

This is a practice with deep roots in the community. Founded by Dr. Loren McQuaig in 1955, it was taken over by his son, Dr. Jim McQuaig, in 1981. He took on a partner, Dr. Blake Hutto, who, after contributing significantly to a complete renovation of the practice in 2016, bought it outright last year.

The practice is housed in a large, free-standing structure with space (and a parking lot) that most urban practices can only fantasize about. The double-height interior and huge windows bring drama and scale, and create the space needed to allow design touches to shine without crowding the overall vibe, which is stylishly minimal with rustic, welcoming touches. Hutto calls it “industrial farmhouse.” These design elements include parquetry flooring, exposed timber fittings, floating shelving affixed to whitewashed walls, and cast iron park benches. Posters of irises (the optical kind, not van Gogh’s) and vintage eyewear patents provide added color. Vendor branding materials are kept to a minimum, P.O.P. is nonexistent. Sleek optical sideboards made of wood and rusted metal skirt the walls.

For the 2016 renovation, FVC opted against hiring an architect or designer. “Through years of being in the industry, I’d formed an idea of an ideal office for my style, work flow and patient experience,” says Hutto. “Somehow our contractor climbed into my mind and teased out my design ideas. It was a collaborative effort…I’m elated with how it turned out.” 

The optical showcases local talent. “The logo and lettering for our feature wall and sign were a local shop. We do have an old Belgian workbench that serves as one of our anchor pieces for our optical.”  The “rural, hardworking and loyal” community of Alma has responded well to the new look. “We’re blessed with a patient demographic who, despite being rural, is willing to push the limits and take risks with style… It’s always refreshing to see a patient pick an edgy frame in a small-town setting.” 

Eyewear is merchandised by brand but FVC is looking for more independent vendors to work with. The goal is to be able to find the piece that best suits a patient without resorting to big-name brands. “Bundling is in the works for the new year … We need independent frame lines that won’t break the bank but don’t skimp on quality. I know they’re out there. We currently work with Article One and they’re fantastic for this.”

FVC draws nearly half of its patients from beyond Alma with its full-service optometry. “In a small town, you’re the front line and the final leg of treatment for some complex cases,” says Hutto. “It’s literally solving puzzles all day, and we love it.”

In a rural setting, keeping patient cost down is important. FVC is always looking at ways to do more. “We’re fueled on words like, ‘You can’t sell that here.’ We like a challenge and often surprise naysayers.”

FVC appears to lavish the same attention on its website and other social media as it does on the store itself, maintaining consistent branding. While the online presence is second to word of mouth when it comes to patient capture and referral, “It’s first in communicating our style and brand,” Hutto says.

Staff look forward to birthday treats and goodies from the on-site kitchen. Unsurprisingly, “Of our nine employees, four have been with us over 10 years with one employee racking up a 43-year tenure.”

A second location is set to open June 1 in a neighboring town as part of a collaborative effort with the owner of a nearby practice. This is an opportunity to try a different business model: a cash-only practice with no insurance, no managed care plans, and lower cost-to-care. “I see this being a huge benefit to our patients and a great relief of headaches for us.” 

Hutto admits it might be time to stop and enjoy the fruits of his and his predecessors’ hard work. “I’m my own worst enemy… I [ought to] change myself to micromanage less and enjoy more. So, that’s in the works as well.” 

 


PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)

 


5 Cool Things About Great Spectacles

1. STAFF TREATS. Birthdays are welcomed with fog horns, Chris Farley/Patrick Swayze “Chip & Dale” screen savers, 200 black balloons, and fresh made cookies straight from their second cool thing….  

2. GOOD EATIN’. The site has a full kitchen. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.  

3. WHOLE NINE YARDS. The medical services on offer are extensive from glasses, specialty contact lenses, and medical models all the way to amniotic membranes/stem cells.  

4. CEILING SECRET. “People think they’re old railroad ties, but they’re actually beams wrapped in wood with aging marks made by the builders. Whoever was most frustrated that day got to wail away at them with a pickaxe.”  

5. HUMMING ALONG. In-store Pandora radio stations drive sales, Hutto says. “We’ve found most success…with Motown Radio, The Allman Brothers Band Radio and Hipster BBQ Radio.”  

 

FINE STORY : A DREAM LIVES ON

Founded in 1955 by Dr. Loren McQuaig, Family Vision Care was “literally birthed the old-fashioned way: a jeweler in the back of a pharmacy who started with a trial lens kit and an idea to self-teach fitting glasses,” says current owner Dr. Blake Hutto, who purchased the store outright last year after a stint as co-owner with the founder’s son, Dr. Jim McQuaig. “He was a fantastic man,” Hutto recalls of Dr. Loren, “as is Dr. Jim… It’s my sincere hope that they both are proud of the direction FVC is moving in.” Jim remains a staff doc and will continue to be, but “he’s also a great friend and mentor,” Hutto adds. 

 

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

Our favorite aspect is that they have created a full-service eyecare clinic and boutique optical that can work anywhere in the country. Their space is open and inviting, hip without being pretentious, and focused on the patient experience. — James and Dr. Laura Armstrong, Alberta Eyecare and Cathedral Eyecare, Portland, OR

Wonderful warm rustic interiors reflect the rural setting making it perfect place for locals near and far. — Jack Verdon, Verdon Architects,San Francisco, CA

“I like the hometown feel.” —Jim Sepanek, DeRigo REM, Sun VAlley, CA


This article originally appeared in the February 2018 edition of INVISION.   

Promoted Headlines