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AMERICA'S FINEST (3RD PLACE): At Dr. Nytarsha Thomas’ Indianapolis-area practice, patients receive lots of personal attention, and have a little fun along the way.

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3RD Place: Visionelle Eyecare, Zionsville, IN

OWNER: Nytarsha Thomas, OD | URL: visionelleeyecare.com| YEAR FOUNDED: 2015 | AREA: 1,750 sq. ft. | EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time, 2 part-time | FACEBOOK: facebook.com/visionelleeyecare | INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/visionelleeyecare | TOP BRANDS: Argyleculture, Kate Spade, Erkers 1879, Eyes of Faith, Life is Good, Gucci, WOOW, Etnia Barcelona, MODO, ECO, Spinoza, Vernon Gentry | BUILD OUT COST: $150,000 | ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Eye Designs


Dr. Nytarsha Thomas and her husband Tobe.

Dr. Nytarsha Thomas and her husband Tobe.

E CPs are driven to open their own businesses for any number of reasons — personal, professional and financial. But few eyecare practices have an origin story as inspiring as the one that led Dr. Nytarsha Thomas to open Visionelle Eyecare in Zionsville, IN.

CPs are driven to open their own businesses for any number of reasons — personal, professional and financial. But few eyecare practices have an origin story as inspiring as the one that led Dr. Nytarsha Thomas to open Visionelle Eyecare in Zionsville, IN.

A turning point came during an interaction with an elderly patient who asked Thomas how much longer she would have her vision. “Hopefully forever,” Thomas replied, at which point the woman broke down in tears. “Her previous doctor had told her she had cataracts and apparently didn’t take the time to explain what that meant. For the year that followed she was memorizing the faces of her grandkids, thinking she was going blind! That brought me to tears… I realized that seeing patients too quickly was sacrificing patient experience and care,” she shares. “I figured I could find a better office to work in, and when I didn’t, Visionelle was born.”

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This Indiana Practice Offers Maximum Service — and Has a Little Fun TooThis Indiana Practice Offers Maximum Service — and Has a Little Fun Too
This Indiana Practice Offers Maximum Service — and Has a Little Fun TooThis Indiana Practice Offers Maximum Service — and Has a Little Fun Too

Visionelle Eyecare was founded in 2015 with the help of Thomas’ husband, airline pilot Tobe. By that time, his work had taken the couple to the Indianapolis area, where Thomas found, in Zionsville, a neighborhood that was primed for growth. In the six years since, she has crafted a practice that is the antithesis of those she left behind, one whose undeniable visual appeal is matched by a tireless drive to create a customer experience based in care and comfort, and which delivers on that promise in ways both large and small.

This Indiana Practice Offers Maximum Service — and Has a Little Fun Too

Planning the office, Thomas was after a spa feel and worked with Eye Designs to create her dream space. They achieved this by using soothing blue and gray tones, and light-colored wood flooring, carpet and wallpaper that resemble water. To enhance the sensory experience, soothing music is played and an aromatherapy scent machine wafts Visionelle’s signature scent throughout the office (with variations for Christmas and fall). “Our office is bright and airy because of the specialized lighting in our optical gallery — we splurged on lights with a specific wavelength that allows our clients to see all the details and colors in their frames — and the floor-to-ceiling windows,” says Thomas. A personal dilation room is fitted with mood lighting and a recliner.

During frame selection, patients are invited to sit in the eyewear gallery with a wine or apple juice (suspended amid COVID) and asked a number of questions before being presented with a selection styled especially for them. Thomas started off selling “the same frames that everyone sells,” but over time decided she wanted to work with “companies that support small businesses, are small and/or local themselves —Etnia, Vernon Gentry — or doing something to make the world better — Eyes of Faith, MODO, ECO, Spinoza.”

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Visionelle’s creativity shines through in its trunk shows, or “Patient Appreciation” events, which at various times have focused on tea blending, guided meditation, a karaoke night, a wine tasting, a session with a local masseuse and a free styling from a fashion model. Another calendar highlight is the annual themed photo shoot, in which patients model the practice’s favorite eyewear for a professional photographer. “Instead of using canned photos from our frame vendors, we fill our boards and windows with the faces of our patients, staff and family members.”

The fun (and funny) details that set Visionelle apart are too numerous to list in full but include an after-hours voicemail informing you that the emergency line is only for “true emergencies and, well, Chris Hemsworth,” their comedy skit-like educational YouTube videos, and invoices that include a request to invite friends to join the “un-ugly glasses club.”

This Indiana Practice Offers Maximum Service — and Has a Little Fun Too

Positive thoughts catch the eye on a wall at Visionelle Eyecare. Above right: A recliner awaits patients in the dedicated dilation room.

As an office that puts a premium on the in-person experience, Visionelle was hit hard by COVID. A staff member even lost several family members to the disease. Some changes will stay, however, including a device Thomas purchased that allows custom measurements to be taken at a distance, and the practice’s new, separate optical schedule for pick-ups and adjustments. What’s more, she says, “Our office has never been cleaner.”

Ultimately, says Thomas, Visionelle’s mission is simple: to demonstrate in each patient interaction its core values of “honesty, integrity, competence, positivity and cheerfulness.” Employees know the motto and it is posted where patients can see it, right alongside Thomas’ email address, should they ever feel staff are not living up to it. “We strive to not only think outside of the box,” she says, “but to completely shred the box while responsibly recycling it into something new.”

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JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • This is the most compelling story of any I reviewed. I’ve never seen a patient whose primary goal is “looking better” when they visit an optical store. In every case I can remember, they all wanted to SEE better. I applaud her decision to use the skills she trained for to help others. This practice embodies the INDEPENDENT spirit that our industry has been losing for far too long. — Jan Ennis, Ennco Display Group, Redmond, WA
  • Passionate about eye health, empathetic to patient needs and feelings, and super fun. YouTube is fast becoming the way for Gen Z to connect and Dr. Thomas does this. Upscale styles for an optometry business. — Mark Hinton, eYeFacilitate, Indianapolis, IN
  • Dr. Nytarsha Thomas is a treat. Please subscribe to her YouTube channel. I spent an afternoon laughing and learning with her. I want her to be my friend — or at least my family’s eye doctor. — Walter Roth, A&A Optical, Louisville, KY

Five Cool Things About Visionelle Eyecare

1. WINE LIST. Visionelle keeps each client’s favorite wine on file. If a patient is having a bad day, staff can have it ready for them once they enter the exam room. (On hiatus amid COVID)

2. ART OF GIVING. The practice has given diapers to struggling new parents, wedding gifts to newlyweds, ‘Eye ER’ kits to school nurses, and even ‘chemo kits’ (comfy blanket, sleep pillow spray, crosswords and a journal) to their cancer patients.

3. PAWS-ITIVE ENERGY. Staff are all pet lovers — it is not unheard of to see mascot and security pup Capri in the office — Visionelle once had a service dog day where they invited the community to meet Echo, a training dog.

4. COMMUNITY SPIRIT. Visionelle focuses on programs that give back to the community like Eyes of Faith (gives a frame to someone in need when you purchase) and Changing Life Through Lenses (they give the glasses to those in need and Visionelle provide the free eye exams), among others.

5. MOOD MUSIC. The optical’s music selection changes from acoustic (morning) to more lively in the afternoon.

Fine Story

“Our great customer experience comes from our Magic Moments meetings,” explains Thomas. “Just because we’re a medical practice doesn’t mean we should be sterile. Incorporating Disney’s touch point philosophy allows us to embrace our staff’s creativity. We list every patient touch point — from the first phone call to the post-visit goodbye — and find ways to make them extraordinary. Then, we implement the really great ideas.”

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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