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A Sleek Showcase

Attention to detail, in both eyewear and eyecare, is the calling card of this practice deep in the heart of Austin.

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Optique, Austin, TX

OWNER: Courtney Rhodes, OD; URL: optiqueaustin.com; FOUNDED: 2009; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION:2015; BUILDOUT COST: $500,000; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Design: Michael Rhodes, Construction: Acero Construction; AREA: 2,200 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 7 full-time; TOP BRANDS: Mykita, Lindberg, SALT, Barton Perreira, Garrett Leight, Ahlem, Rolf; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/OptiqueAustin; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/optiqueaustin; TWITTER: twitter.com/optiqueaustin; YELP: yelp.com/biz/optique-austin-2


DR. COURTNEY RHODES OPENED Optique in the heart of downtown Austin, TX, in January 2009, becoming just the second optometrist to open in her area. She and husband Michael, an architectural engineer and builder, designed the office to have a sleek, modern appeal. Rhodes envisioned an optometry office and optical boutique “like no other.” She stocked exclusive, high quality eyewear and set the goal of providing eyecare and service to match.

In 2015, Optique relocated to a new, larger office at the Seaholm Power Plant. Just a year later Rhodes opened a second location about a mile away at the new South Lamar Union development. (Designed by architect Burton Baldridge, the South Lamar Union location was featured in Texas Architect.) For the last nine years, Optique has continually grown with two optometrists and an in-house lab.

Rhodes says that when looking at potential sites for the practice, her choice was guided by “Location, vibe and high foot traffic,” adding that it was always her plan to have multiple practices. “Our patients live or work near downtown/South Austin. They are willing to pay more for high-quality products, value the experience — i.e. they are looking for one-of-a-kind, hard-to-find items that no one else has — and want to find it in an environment that isn’t replicated anywhere else.” She adds that her clients generally want a more customized and personalized experience, and are looking for a one-stop shop to get all their vision needs met. They are the kind of customer that likes to shop at small, local businesses, and that “values creating a long-term relationship with their medical providers.”

Optique is set apart by a cool look and sleek, elegant finishes. Michael personally designed and built Optique’s Seaholm office to serve as a showcase for the Mykita, Lindberg, Rolf, Garrett Leight and other distinctive frames that line its walls, while delivering on Dr. Rhodes’ interest in service excellence. Every detail of the finishings, Courtney says, was “meticulously designed and custom fabricated” to be durable and ergonomic. The result is a timeless, elegant look that is something of a trademark for Michael’s projects. 

“As a small, local business,” Rhodes says, “we prefer to support independent and handmade brands. We value our relationships with these companies. We appreciate their detail, quality and craftsmanship. We want patients to be inspired by their eyewear and feel they are making a personal statement.”  

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Rhodes has set herself the ambitious task of “perfecting the customer’s experience.” This entails analyzing the practice’s operations from start to finish. When the patient walks in, they are greeted at the reception desk/wet bar and offered a choice of sparkling water, wine, or local beer. Snacks are provided and a bag of jelly beans is handed to every patient at their frame dispense. “We pride ourselves by operating on our four core values: approachable, distinctive, proficient and conscientious. I tell my staff to make every decision regarding our patients and practice with these principles in mind.” Rounding out the experience, “We try to communicate with our customers as much as possible whether it be with a hand-written thank you note or phone call to check on them,” says Rhodes.

Rhodes refuses to engage in “pressure sales.” She believes in “fast and easy-going exams,” after which patients are handed off to opticians with a combined 40 years of experience fitting frames. Among Optique’s conveniences are an in-house lab that can often make lenses in one hour, and home/office delivery.

Optique’s attractive website and Instagram emphasize frames and outside events. And while Rhodes hasn’t ruled out the idea of online sales, she believes that “with the current race to the bottom with online retailers like Warby Parker, it is so important now to focus on the customer’s experience. Happy customers are our lifeline, and we depend on their referrals.”

Staff have weekly team lunch meetings and quarterly team-building activities including escape rooms, happy hours, Top Golf, bowling and swimming. At least once a quarter, the store organizes a party, frame pop-up or sponsorship of an outside event. Outings this year have included numerous trunk shows and events related to the SXSW festival and Austin Fashion Week. “They are fun! It gives our patients a chance to come hang out and get to know us. We have drinks, often with a specialty themed cocktail to match the event, and snacks.”

As for the bottom line: Business, Rhodes says, “is great! We love being in Austin.”

PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Optique

1. CHOICE ITEMS. Staff feature their favorite frames with a “Staff Pick” card. Aside from highlighting key collections, “it also helps spark a conversation between the optician and patient,” says Rhodes.
2. TO YOUR DOOR. Optique’s white Fiat, featuring the business’s ‘See Well, Look Better’ logo, delivers “anything and everything” to patients.
3. HOME TRIAL. Customers can take three pairs of glasses home for 24 hours under a “keep some or none” offer.
4. PRIZE-WINNER. Optique won a Mykita contest for 10 custom-made frames based on an elaborate POP display staff created in the store.
5. HIGH PRAISE. Dr. Rhodes’ husband Michael Rhodes is an architectural engineer and builder who worked on Optique. Among the other projects handled by his firm is a home featured in Architectural Digest.

FINE STORY

Dr. Rhodes is a fitness enthusiast, and provides regular opportunities for staff to live a healthy lifestyle together: monthly team workouts after work (Wellness Wednesday); a weekly allowance for healthy team groceries; participating in the Austin Capitol 10K run as a team; and sponsoring employees in the Austin Marathon. ”

 

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • “Optique’s presence is a “signature” that modulates nicely from one location to the next. The ultra-clean palette is balanced by a pleasing combination of wood, white, and insertions of warm and cool colors. Smart and logical, as if they epitomize the clarity of vision customers will enjoy.” Brent Zerger, l.a. Eyeworks, Los Angeles, CA
  • “Hands down, one of the best exterior storefronts I’ve seen of any retailer, not just optical. My favorite aspect is the “staff picks” card. I’ve been preaching this for years. It’s a natural conversation starter and makes the selling process that much easier.”  Robert Bell, EyeCoach, San Francisco, CA
  • “Both interior and exterior are very chic and mirror the high-end product the optical carries.”  Jennifer Coppell, Tura, New York, NY

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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