LOCATION / COLUMBUS, OH
BY JULIE FANSELOW
Think of Barbi Tuckerman as a tour guide for adventurous eyewear buyers. She grew up in the optical business, working in her dad’s shop as a teen and with her brother after college before opening her own business in 1995. Along the way, she learned about color, design and how to convince people that fine eyewear can be every bit the fashion statement as a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Of course, it helps that she fell madly in love with eyewear at an early age. “When I first started wearing glasses in the ’80s, Tuckerman Optical (her brother’s shop) was the only store in Columbus, OH, that carried Oliver Peoples. I remember picking a pair of 1950s in Tokyo Tortoise. Thought I was the bomb! I still have that pair and could probably sell it for triple what we sold it for back then!”
When I wake up in the morning and sit to have my coffee, I hop on my Macbook and go straight to the Luxury Eyewear Forum on Facebook. It’s dedicated to independent representatives, opticians, manufacturers and everyone in between. Members are the best of the best, they are willing to give advice on anything related to optical. They will even find you that discontinued frame you’ve been looking for — and tell the best optical jokes you’ve ever heard. I’ve learned that it’s the people that make this field so attractive to me.
Remember, you are the professional and not the person who buys glasses once every three to five years.
I explain to each client why I chose a particular frame over another. I get them involved in the process to the point that they can see the differences themselves. Listen to what they want, then explain that you have been doing this every day for (however many) years. Tell them about bone structure and facial features; give them benefits and features just like pros and cons. Give them a reason to trust you and they will.
My favorite type of client is not only one who buys, but one that is willing to listen and learn from me. My father was an optometrist who told me that if you can teach a person one thing, they will never forget you. I live that thought every day.
I am lucky that most reps come to me since I don’t always make the shows. I look for unique styles with interesting shapes. Color is always important. Know your clientele as you can’t be everything to everybody. Pick your niche and follow your gut when it comes to buying.
I love frames ... pure and simple! I stock about 3,500 frames at B. Tuckerman Unique Eyewear. I personally own 50-plus pairs of prescription glasses and since I just had cataract surgery, I will have to change them all.
When I sell four pairs of glasses, I’ve had an awesome day. Because I live in a high-end world, that equates to over $6,000. Not a bad day for a small boutique store. My bottom line is dollars. I know what I need to make in order to stay alive and prosper. You must always know the daily figures and where you stand in your budget. If it’s a goal, keep your eyes on the goal and never lose sight.
If you do your job correctly, the patient will have what they need. Never ever let a job go without AR! If you do, you are not helping that patient. You must explain why they need what I consider the essentials: scratch coat, UV and anti-reflective.
I can’t imagine not doing what I do because I love it so much. I was raised in this business from the age of 3. It was always going to be optical for me. I have a need to express my creative side so no matter what I did or do, it has to allow me room to be me. I guess if optical said “get out” I would be happy as a designer. I like working with color and objects and gardens, so a landscaper would be right up my alley.
When I have a bad day and nothing seems to be going right, when I start to get short and my patience runs thin, I leave my office and go home to have a glass of wine and recoup. Tomorrow is another day!