Investments help Minnesota business offer truly complete customer service
Whether it’s a bedazzled diva, biker or vintage look its customers are going for, Spectacle Shoppe’s lab artisans can craft it. Unique lens designs are its hallmark and they can be put into any one of the more than 12,000 frames the business carries across its four Minnesota locations. All have in-house finishing labs, and the original location has a surfacing lab, too. — CAROL GILHAWLEY
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of INVISION.
THE IDEA: The story of Spectacle Shoppe begins with its owner, David Ulrich, who got into the optical business in 1963 when he joined the U.S. Army. For eight months at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, CO, he learned how to fabricate lenses and put in an Rx. Next, he went to Okinawa, Japan, where his unit made eyewear for U.S. troops in Vietnam.
Once out of the service, he worked for Benson Optical before being recruited by an optometrist in Oshkosh, WI, to run his dispensary. After that, he worked at Shoppers City where he laid out optical departments in seven stores, put in equipment and purchased frames. In 1975, he and a partner bought a piece of land in New Brighton, MN, and built his first Spectacle Shoppe. “I knew how to use sophisticated equipment, I had the knowledge and I thought I could do this,” Ulrich says.
THE EXECUTION: Many ECPs offer in-house finishing, of course. Spectacle Shoppe’s finishing labs have Santinelli International’s ME 1000 edgers and Santinelli’s Ice 1000 intelligent blockers. Each finishing lab takes up about 10 feet by 10 feet and they each edge about 25 to 35 uncut lenses a day. Spectacle Shoppe took the next step 10 years ago and added a surfacing lab, too. Before that, the business’s lab costs topped $30,000 a month. Now, it surfaces between 350 and 450 jobs and completes between 150 and 250 finish jobs every month.
THE RESULT: Says lab manager Kristina Winge, “Our patients can get a digitally surfaced lens with AR in a day, which is way above most optical stores. It sets us apart because we can do it all right here in-house and not outsource it.” Spectacle Shoppe employs two surface technicians and four finish technicians to serve its national clientele.
The eyecare business has been good to Ulrich. His wife, Beth, is the chief operations officer. Their two teenage sons are too young to join the family business just yet, but “I hope the little guy will down the road,” Ulrich adds.