Smooth Seller: Holly Forstad

Holly Forstad of Rivertown Eye Care

Holly Forstad

Rivertown Eye Care, Hastings, MN

Holly Forstad came to the optical world in 2009 as a switch from creating custom wedding gowns. (“After working intimately with Bridezillas for eight years, optical customers seem like angels,” she says.) She’s now an ABO-certified optician and the optical manager at Rivertown Eye Care, in Hastings, MN, where she worked her way up from the front desk. “I stumbled into the optical world when looking for a career change, and I love, love, love it!” she adds. Forstad brings her strong design sensibility to everything she does, from frame styling to her life outside the business. — JULIE FANSELOW

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2015 edition of INVISION.

My favorite sale was with a customer who we affectionately call “Fun Donna.” I had been working as an optician for only about six months and was still feeling new and unsure. Then Fun Donna came my way! She is energetic, positive, enthusiastic and asked me to style her up in what I thought would be perfect for her. She bought two pair of fabulous glasses that day, and comes back regularly now for re-styling and multiple-pair orders. That day was a turning point for me. I gained confidence in my skills as an optician, and realized that this is a really fun and rewarding career.

My equation for dealing with an upset customer is: Listening + Reassuring = Defusing. Most of the time, the customer needs to be heard and to express their frustration. Let them do it. Then, move into reassuring them that you will do everything you can to help them and make it better. Boom. Defused.

We have transitioned from very mainstream, licensed frame collections to exclusive, independent collections like SALT, Barton Perreira, Lindberg, Moscot and Face à Face. We are carefully and thoughtfully curating the best selection of unique frame collections for our customer base. Also, the majority of lenses we process are free form, with AR in either Trivex or high index. No cheap plastic lenses here.

If I wasn’t working in the optical business, I’d probably be a costume designer. I studied apparel design and spent eight years designing and creating custom wedding gowns. Not as glamorous as you’d think. However, creating period costumes for stage and film — now that would be amazing!

I got to meet both Gai Gherardi and Blake Kuwahara at Vision Expo West! It was definitely a celebrity moment for me.

My favorite things to do outside of work include living my version of Hygge, which is a Danish word without English translation. It basically means enjoying comfy, cozy surroundings, often with loved ones around a table of good food and drink, with the glow of candles or a fire. It’s the art of creating intimacy and contentment, creating warmth, connection and well-being. Curling up in bed with a good book, picnicking in a park and enjoying the good things in life.

I’m most optimistic about the future of our business because there’s room for everyone. There are customers that are satisfied with a big-box experience. However, there is a strong movement toward wanting quality goods, constructed by hand with care, and a break from the sameness of mass merchandise. More and more consumers are discovering that the digital world is sterile and not always the best option for buying personalized products such as glasses. I don’t think that big-box or online retailers will go away, but I also don’t think they are as large a threat as they are being made out to be.