America's Finest: Optik PDX

America's Finest optical businesses Optik PDX

Thriving with style and service in Oregon


This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of INVISION.

Q U I C K   F A C T S

LOCATION: Portland, OR
OWNER: Dr. Ezra Atikune
AREA: 1,600 square feet
EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time, 2 part-time
TOP BRANDS: Mykita Mylon, Anne & Valentin, Barton Perreira, SALT Optics, five OH three

What goes around comes around. Optik PDX in Portland, OR, manifests that idea in several ways, from using locally reclaimed wood for construction and a small-run line of frames to the way the business gives back to the community.

Optik PDX caters mainly to a neighborhood clientele that loves to shop and live locally, as well as people who travel from farther away for several harder-to-find lines. The practice and optical boutique landed 1,600 square feet on the ground floor of Tupelo Alley, a green-certified apartment building, as it was under construction along Portland’s artsy Mississippi Avenue. It was a space that convinced Dr. Ezra Atikune to open shop in this neighborhood over several others he’d surveyed.

Atikune had already co-founded D/Vision Optical in Chicago in 2004, six years after graduating from the Illinois College of Optometry. He and his wife, Carrie, were on their way back to Chicago from an Alaskan vacation when they stopped over in Portland and found themselves wondering why people were moving so slowly. “We realized people were actually enjoying their walks,” he says. Lured by the chance for a more relaxed life, Atikune sold his share of D/Vision, moved to Oregon and took about a year off to hike, camp and look for the right location to launch a new business.

The staff at Optik PDX
The staff at Optik PDX is enthusiastic about helping Portlanders get their best vision.
Meanwhile, Jessica Ra Kemp was a Portlander who’d been working in the optical field since high school, learning eyewear styling and design. A SALT rep, Eric Canady, recommended her to Atikune, who hired her to help plan and open Optik PDX. They’ve since been joined by optician Sarah Henschel and Hannah Russell, an “optical enthusiast and insurance guru” recruited from the chiropractic office across the street. Dr. Karen Truong, a 2014 graduate of the Pacific University College of Optometry, sees patients three days a week.

Atikune designed Optik PDX’s space with Portland architect Robin Blair, and local craftsman Jesse Pender did the buildout, utilizing materials from The Rebuilding Center, a neighbor in the historic business district. Reclaimed wood from Douglas fir trees went into the cabinets, countertops and trim work. The showroom has a concrete floor stained bluish-green-gray (the hues are echoed on the business website), while carpet in the exam room and offices is 100 percent recycled plastic and rubber. You won’t find much paper around, either, other than some local brochures and magazines for browsing. All medical records and patient forms have gone digital.

The environmental ethic extends to five OH three, Optik PDX’s own line of eyewear named for the city’s area code. (And in case you haven’t flown to Oregon, PDX is the identifier for Portland’s airport.) Wood for the frames came from the old stadium bleachers at Lewis and Clark College across town. Eight styles in various color combos retail for $503, with profits designated for local youth education organizations.

Eyewear display at Optik PDX
Optik PDX finds it easy to be green, from bike parking to frames made of wood from reclaimed college bleachers.
The five OH three line is exclusive to Optik PDX, and its price point is slightly below the middle of the shop’s range of about $365 to $700. “We don’t have a lot of lines, but we go deep,” says Kemp. Flagship brands include Anne & Valentin, Barton Perreira, Mykita Mylon and SALT Optics, with dozens of frames in stock for each line. Adventurous eyewear aficionados can expect a few wild cards, such as the collaboration between Mark Mothersbaugh and Shane Baum. The practice innovates with contacts, too; it was among the first in town to add Acuvue’s Define lenses.

Whether or not they have their eyewear purchase already in mind when they arrive, Optik PDX’s clients can expect an immersive experience. Atikune says his exams are usually an hour long; he spends time getting to know his patients, explaining everything he does and asking them about their work and hobbies while remaining alert for signs of diabetes or hypertension as well as ocular health.

The optical staff are prepared to spend ample time with clients, too, though 80 percent of the time, people end up buying the first frame Kemp or her colleagues recommend (and many also pick up either sunglasses or a pair to use at work). They never allow anyone to pick a frame that doesn’t work for their face. “We’re very opinionated about how it looks,” Kemp says. After all, adds Atikune, the eyewear Optik PDX sends out the door is its best advertising — and it’s the key to repeat business and frequent referrals.

The Optik PDX crew
The Optik PDX crew includes Sarah Henschel, Hannah Russell, Dr. Ezra Atikune and Jessica Ra Kemp.
1. Party Time: Optik PDX is big on events. They’ve ranged from trunk shows for Mykita Mylon and Anne & Valentin to an annual neighborhood ice cream social in which many Mississippi Avenue businesses compete to see who can give away their flavor the fastest.

2. Giving Back: A portion of each Optik PDX eye exam fee benefits the patient’s choice of causes including Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Oregon Food Bank. Dr. Ezra Atikune is creating a nonprofit, The Sight House Project, which will bring vision care services and eyewear to underserved people in Portland. (He’s been talking with INVISION columnist Robert Bell, who coordinates similar efforts in San Francisco through Project Homeless Connect Vision Volunteers.)

3. See SALT: By the time you read this, Optik PDX will have a new custom display from SALT designed to showcase that line, one of the shop’s most popular. It’s one of several the California brand has been building for its top accounts.

4. The Finer Things: An art curator stops by each month to put new paintings on Optik PDX’s walls in time for Mississippi Avenue’s 2nd Thursday art walks. The shop also regularly gets fresh flowers from Emerald Petals, another neighbor.

5. Stump the OD: Atikune and staff appreciate a challenge. One recent example: successfully fitting a rock climbing enthusiast who had been unable to find sports-specific Rx eyewear that allowed him to see both his hands and feet clearly .

Optik PDX gives a little boy his first glasses

F I N E   S T O R Y


Reiter is a little boy who needed glasses but wasn’t keen to wear them. He’s also a big fan of the Portland Timbers soccer club, so Optik PDX hatched a plan with team execs to get Reiter some Swissflex frames in the Timbers’ colors of green and yellow — and have them presented by the club’s mascot, Timber Joey (seen here with Reiter and his dad, Blake). Score one for customer service.

Optik PDX

You won’t find much paper around Optik PDX, other than some local brochures and magazines for browsing. All medical records and patient forms have gone digital.