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A light, contemporary and clean look defines the art gallery-inspired space at Oculus Eyewear.

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Oculus Eyewear, San Marcos, TX

OWNERS: Joshua Hu, MD, and Jonathan Welch, MD. Managed by Leah Johnson, ABOC.; URL:oculuseyegallery.com; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2020; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Bob Borson, Landon Williams, MMB Architects in Dallas, TX; EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time (optical gallery); AREA: 12,000 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Lindberg, Krewe, Salt, Anne et Valentin, Barton Perreira; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/OculusEyeGallery; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/o_c_u_l_u_s_eyewear


LOCATED IN SAN Marcos, TX, between Austin and San Antonio, Oculus Eyewear serves customers across Central Texas. Offering a cutting-edge aesthetic within a welcoming environment, Oculus is the result of Central Texas Eye Center’s need to expand after nearly 40 years of growth.

Started in 1971, Central Texas Eye Center started as a one-doctor clinic, and evolved into a practice with four ophthalmologists, two optometrists, and a team of sub-specialists. As the practice grew, the inevitable decision to build a new facility with a separate optical — Oculus Eyewear — became a reality. The shop serves a wide range of clients, from musicians and artists to professors and pilots. “We even have a few actors, but we won’t name names,” says Leah Johnson, marketing director and optical manager for Oculus Eyewear.

Oculus Eyewear exterior

The distinctive architectural feature outside the optical from which Oculus Eyewear derives its name.

Named for the oculus outside the front of the building, Oculus Eyewear brings a gallery sensibility to the optical shopping experience. Once customers step inside, their attention is drawn to the beauty and uniqueness of select frames that are on display.

“When we were designing the new showroom, we wanted lots of natural light and a clean look, with a less-is-more approach,” says Johnson, noting that the previous location did not have windows. “Inspired by European designs, our architectural team was more than happy to help us create a look that wasn’t prevalent in the United States.”

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The specific elements of the space were figured out with great care and much forethought. The showroom has white Caesarstone quartz countertops, and Terrazzo waterfall countertops, which occupy the front reception space and the styling island in the optical showroom. Wilsonart laminate was used for all millwork throughout the building. Electric window shades make it easy to maximize opportunities for natural light to come in through the large windows at the front.

Part of the team’s goal, pre-COVID, was to create a space customers could truly put to use. To that end, a custom repair bar offers built-in areas for magnetic pads, lens cleaner, and Kimwipes. Customers can sit on the other side of the repair bar and enjoy a cup of coffee while they wait for their repairs to be completed. (This space will reopen when it is deemed safe.)

Johnson acknowledges the scope of the investment in the build out as well as the benefits the business is seeing already. “We invested a lot into the design of the optical and the renovations, but it is paying off as we are seeing an increase of 20 percent on outside prescriptions, month over month on top of the foot traffic we already have from the practice,” she says. “Our opticians are very busy.”

From left: Oculus Eyewear team members Leah Johnson, Anna Zuniga and Crystal Ruiz

From left: Oculus Eyewear team members Leah Johnson, Anna Zuniga and Crystal Ruiz

While the circumstances of 2020 forced many businesses into an appointment-only structure, this was the plan for Oculus from the get-go anyway. “Clients understand the value of the service they receive when we can dedicate time for just them,” says Johnson. During an appointment, an optician will sit with a client to discover what their needs are based on prescription, personality, daily activities, and what their current collection looks like.

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Customer education is among the Oculus team’s top priorities, and has proven valuable to the business. “We’ve found that the better they understand things, the easier it is to get them into a quality pair of glasses,” says Johnson. “In order to educate clients, we need an educated staff. We provide an extensive training program for all new opticians, and they are required to become certified at the end of year one. We haven’t had anyone fail yet.”

Indeed, a knowledgeable and confident staff makes all the difference, and the selection of independent lines available at Oculus is an important component of the eyewear shopping experience. “We love getting customers out of their comfort zone and into eyewear that helps them be more expressive, and it really helps that we have opticians who are passionate about glasses and who wear fun frames themselves.”

PHOTO GALLERY (31 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Oculus Eyewear

1. VISION PLANS. When the staff understands the policies, Johnson says, accepting a few vision plans can make sense for the business while allowing the customer to feel taken care of.

2. LATTE LOVE. Currently on hold due to COVID, the Oculus coffee bar, which includes phone charging stations, gives clients a spot to talk shop — or just talk — over a coffee or latte.

3. ACCESSORIES. From Any Di handbags and suncovers to eclectic earrings and stylish hand sanitizer cases, Oculus keeps clients accessorized in style. These accessories, as well as non-prescription suns, are also available for purchase online.

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4. APPRECIATION. Every new client goes home with a set of amazing swag, and Oculus mails a handwritten, custom-wax-stamp-sealed thank you card to every client — old and new — post-purchase.

5. SHOP DOG. French bulldog-turned-Instagram-model Jackson hit the cuddly-canine jackpot when Johnson decided 2020 was the perfect time to train a puppy.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Paul Storace, Alternative Eyewear/Plan B Eyewear, Ajax, ON: Big beautiful high-end optical store that sells independent brands. What’s not to like?
  • Jan Ennis, Ennco Display Group, Redmond, WA: The unique use of frame storage for personal delivery creates a personal shopping experience that has been lost for many years in our industry.
  • Lance Anderson, OD, Professional Eye Care Associates of America (PECAA), Portland, OR: Very well done from top to bottom. The interior and exterior design are beautiful. The attention to detail is very evident in all aspects of the design. Their marketing is very fresh with the use of fun sales and fashion events. This is high-end eyewear presented in a high-end and professional setting.

Rachel Bozek is a contributing writer for INVISION.

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