After 31 years as the co-owner of Bouquet Mulligan DeMaio Eye Professionals in central Pennsylvania, it would be easy for optician Jim Mulligan to accept the status quo, to float along in the business he and his team grew into one of the area’s most respected optical destinations. Mulligan’s done his time and earned the opportunity to coast into retirement, right? At this stage of the game, enduring risk or interruptions to a comfortable routine should be a thing of the past.
OWNER: Jim Mulligan
LOCATION: Cleona, PA
AREA: 6,000 square feet
DESIGNER: Eye Designs
EMPLOYEES: 25 at the renovated Cleona location
TOP BRANDS: Lafont, Oakley, Bellinger House, Silhouette, Prodesign Denmark
Just one problem: Mulligan and his crew at BMD Eye — as they are known to the locals — are not wired that way.
Since optometrist Jim Bouquet convinced Mulligan, his former colleague at a Boscov’s department store optical, to launch the business in June 1985 in Cleona, PA, the practice has expanded into bigger quarters, added another 6,000-square-foot location in nearby Elizabethtown, PA, and grown from three employees to more than 40 team members examining patients and selling eyewear.
In 2015, Mulligan and current co-owner Ray DeMaio, an ophthalmologist who joined in 1995 to form the modern-day BMD Eye, took another daring step and invested approximately $300,000 into a renovation of their flagship location in Cleona. The resulting contemporary environment, housing some 2,000 frames and an eye-catching sunglass lounge, is a testament to the forward-thinking culture that defines BMD Eye and its unwavering commitment to provide customers a relevant, engaging experience.
For years, Mulligan grew increasingly irritated by space allocation issues at the Cleona office, most notably an existing sunglass area that also included children’s eyewear. It was an ill-fitting combination that hampered the store’s potential to sell sunglasses, particularly higher-end sunwear, at the rate it thought capable.
“That had been grinding on me and those needed to be taken apart,” Mulligan says.
Mulligan’s growing irritation transformed into action in mid-2015 when BMD Eye’s founding partner phoned an old friend, Richard Winig, the co-founder of Eye Designs, a Pennsylvania-based firm that specializes in optical retail design. Winig led the design of BMD Eye’s initial office in 1985 as well as its expansion into its current Cleona space in 1993 and the opening of its Elizabethtown location in 1997.
“There was certainly a comfort level there,” Mulligan says of Winig. “I know Richard understands the retail space and merchandising like few others.” Mulligan presented his initial “industrial chic” vision for a remodeled space. Steel. LED lighting. Geometric elements.
Over the course of six months, Mulligan made a half-dozen trips to Eye Designs’ headquarters in Collegeville, PA, about 75 miles east of Cleona, to conceptualize the office’s new look alongside Winig and a pair of interior designers.
On Dec. 1, 2014, the 10-week renovation began. Seeking to limit downtime, BMD Eye invested in a construction company that specializes in hospitals, retirement homes and other 24/7 venues. The construction crew brought in dust collectors and taped off sections of the 6,000-square foot space, moving from back to front in a five-step process. BMD Eye staff lined card tables with hundreds of frames — “Selling $600 Lafont frames off a card table was a bit hysterical,” Mulligan confesses — while laborers worked nights and weekends. “We only lost three days around Christmas. Our customers understood ‘no pain, no gain’ and they rolled with the punches.”
The finished product reflects ownership’s vision, a contemporary office blending raw materials with refined finishes and utilitarian design. Gray, white and black dominate the space, one punctuated by an imposing, wooden front desk topped with thick glass. It sits in front of a wall comprised of reclaimed barnwood that has been whitewashed and accented with cool blue lighting.
“People stop and feel this wall, which is a definite highlight feature,” Mulligan says.
Ditching its old, semicircular furniture, the office now features individual fitting stations that offer patients added privacy and comfort; incorporates Eye Designs’ stylish LUM Retailing Lighting, pendant fixtures with color correct LED bulbs designed specifically for the optical retail industry; and showcases its eyewear on displays from Eye Designs’ Milan collection, a sophisticated, European lineup that provides just the swanky, modern look ownership sought.
A modular, see-through wall, meanwhile, separates the office’s waiting room from the sunglass lounge, a refined space featuring 16-foot ceilings and tinted windows.
“This is the space that delivers the wow factor,” Mulligan says of the sunglass lounge.
Minimalism reigns throughout the space with few POP materials or extraneous decorations.
“We really kept things clean and [simple], and that puts all the focus on the eyewear,” Mulligan says. “It’s a real effort to tackle something like this, but we couldn’t be happier with the finished product.”
Five Cool Things About Bouquet Mulligan DeMaio Eye Professionals
WALKS THE WALK: BMD Eye blends plenty of optical substance with its style. The office solders and repairs glasses and also does in-house surfacing and finishing. “We are known as innovators in lens design and frame materials,” Mulligan says.
SO FANCY: When visitors enter the new Cleona showroom, they are greeted by a display featuring about 100 high-end frames from the likes of Lafont, Bellinger House and Alain Mikli. The display’s luxury look mimics that of jewelry stores and elevates product perception.
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Outside of its Cleona shop, BMD Eye has a four-line changeable copy sign that staff update regularly with humorous optical-related copy. For St. Patrick’s Day: “We Keep Your Iris Eyes Smiling.” When the Pokémon Go craze hit: “Blurry Pokemon? Let Dr. DeMaio take a Pikachu.”
TEAM BUILDING: BMD Eye staff works together and plays together, enjoying casino nights, horse racing events, hockey games , happy hours and pool parties throughout the year.
JOIN THE TEAM: Mulligan, a self-described athletic junkie, has aligned the office with numerous sports-related endeavors, including sponsorships with the Hershey Bears minor league hockey team, local road races and golf tournaments.
A Fine Story
A Super (Bowl) House Call
When a local hospice patient was bedridden with eye cancer and tabbed watching the 2015 NFL Playoffs as his most pressing wish, BMD Eye responded with a special house call.
Mulligan performed a bedside refraction, which led to the creation of custom fabricated pinhole aperture glasses. Mulligan and BMD Eye brand manager Corinne Brumbaugh personally delivered the glasses in advance of the NFL playoffs alongside another gift: a new, 40-inch television.
“His wife was tearing up as we walked into the house,” Mulligan recalls. “Lo and behold, he watched the [Denver] Broncos march their way to a Super Bowl victory.”
What the Judges Say
ANDREA HILL: The sunwear lounge is a great idea, and such a great way to attract seasonal traffic. The sports-marketing angle is also very smart, combining need with niche.
COLLEEN GALANTI: A beautiful modern optical shop without looking sterile and blah. I love it. Bouquet, Mulligan & DeMaio has an exceptional online presence with a stellar website and a fun Facebook page getting their patients/customers involved.
Marc Franchi and Jason Stanley: We appreciate the great commitment to their patients and community.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 edition of INVISION.