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With All Due Respect

From the exam lane to the optical, this Calgary gem is utterly distinctive.

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Respect Eyecare, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

OWNER: Steve Hoang, OD; URL: respecteyecare.com; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/respecteyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/respect.eyecare; FOUNDED: 2019; Opened featured location: 2021; AREA: 1,000 sq. ft.; Buildout cost: $250,000; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Mesa Design Studios; TOP BRANDS: Masunaga 1905, Cutler and Gross, Anne et Valentin, l.a. Eyeworks, Ørgreen Optics, Zeiss Vision, Johnson & Johnson; EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time


Dr. Steven Hoang

Dr. Steven Hoang worked in varied settings all over Alberta before opening Respect Eyecare in Calgary in 2019.

AS A NEWLY MINTED optometrist in the mid-2010s, Dr. Steven Hoang briefly returned from optometry school to his home city of Calgary, Alberta, but soon embarked on a period of wandering and searching, his “desire to find an inspiring place to work” taking him to many different settings around the Canadian province, including a stint as the sole OD in the beautiful Rocky Mountains town of Canmore, near Banff National Park. In each location, he recalls, he saw so much potential for something unique, but encountered a depressingly familiar, uninspired experience. It was this “same old” that he was determined not to repeat when he opened Respect Eyecare in Calgary’s Inglewood neighborhood in November 2019.

“We had a dream that a visit to an optometrist office didn’t have to look, feel, or be the same as everywhere else,” Hoang recalls, describing the motivation he and his team felt at the time. “We wanted everyone’s experience to be less medically sterile and more warm and cozy. We came from working at clinics where we learned what not to do and what to do.”

Looking to offer a “modern, hip approach … online to in store,” Hoang considered the countless pain points that patients had shared with him during his time in the industry and incorporated the positives into Respect Eyecare. First up: Out with the bottleneck receptionists’ desk, phone calls, and dusty glass frame displays.

“We wanted to create a space that was inviting and took our inspiration from the best places people enjoy spending hours at: coffee shops and modern libraries,” he recalls. The practice’s beautifully handcrafted eyewear, sourced from around the world, is displayed on flat wooden shelves, and a single long table serves as the team’s working bench where people can stand side-by-side instead of across from each other. “We were not interested in compartmentalizing every designated area of our clinic with four white walls. This led to using wooden beams and darker tones of paint color to section off our spaces.”

mural

A mural hand-painted by a local artist on the theme of ‘eyewear from around the world’ is a highlight of the office.

The intentionality of the physical design is echoed in the service at Respect. Online scheduling is offered so people can book at their own convenience (which Hoang says tends to happen at 9 p.m. or later). “It saves the long, awkward phone call of having to repeat your last name or cellphone number over and over again. We keep up with the times and use text messaging to communicate.”

Eye exams are never rushed, and Hoang and his team are constantly looking for opportunities to show people the benefits of having multiple glasses, from general wear to office progressives, and never forget to discuss prescription polarized sunglasses. Doctors personally hand off each client to a crew member and reiterate the game plan.

Masunaga 1905 and Cutler & Gross are the mainstays in the optical, while Hoang finds Optomap and iCare offer a great way for him to differentiate his eye exams. Zeiss leads the way in lenses, and J&J does the heavy lifting in contacts. “I’m part of EyeTrust Network buying group, which has been helpful with getting discounts on equipment purchases, group rates for merchant services, and money back for contact lens purchases,” he adds.

On social media, Hoang prefers carefully curated shots of locals wearing his eyewear in recognizable locations over a daily slew of generic images. “The visuals we show to people should be aligned and showcase our brand,” he says, insisting that organizing professional photoshoots has been money well spent. The website devotes plenty of space to recounting the histories and special qualities of the independent lines Respect offers.

Hoang believes that a happy, fulfilled staff translates into a personalized experience for clients. All crew members are actively involved in eyewear purchasing and provided with Health Spending Accounts, and workdays are limited to a productive seven hours. “We don’t believe in eight-hour, late-night or early-morning workdays. We have created a work week that allows for a healthy work-life balance,” says Hoang. “We care about remembering people’s names, stories shared, and making sure all the small details are covered when it comes to their eyecare.”

At This Alberta Practice, the Eyewear Is Global, the Exams Are Thorough and the Staff Are Valued

Respect Eyecare’s social media posts use professionally taken shots of Calgary locals wearing the practice’s curated eyewear, rather than generic or vendor-provided images.

Five Cool Things About Respect Eyecare

1. HEART OF TOWN. Located across the Elbow River from historic Fort Calgary, Inglewood is Calgary’s oldest neighborhood.

2. WELCOME ABOARD. All clients are served complimentary cold beverages upon arrival.

3. READY FOR TAKEOFF. Patients arriving for appointments see their name on a board resembling the flight information displays seen at airports, evoking the international origins of Respect’s handcrafted eyewear and helping clients ‘feel like they are traveling away from home.’

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4. GIVING BACK. Dr. Hoang has volunteered at Calgary Urban Project Society, providing eye exams to people facing barriers to access to healthcare.

5. LOVELY SIGHT. Respect hired a talented local professional artist to hand-paint a large mural showcasing its brand on the theme of ‘Eyewear from around the world.’

PHOTO GALLERY (8 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • David Duralde, Chief Creative Officer, OGI Eyewear, Minneapolis, MN:The minute you look in the window and see the boutique flair of the interior design and the truly interesting independent eyewear displayed meticulously, you sense this is a shop to indulge in if you want a truly stand-out eyecare experience.
  • Jenn Denham, Head of Business Development, Review Wave, McKinney, TX:Modern, hip, fashionable like a relaxing coffee shop, Respect Eyecare found a new way to make patients feel more comfortable. A cool spot in Calgary, with an OD that gets work/life balance!
  • Paige Kraemer, ABOC, Sales Consultant, Minnesota, Cherry Optical Lab, Green Bay, WI: The store is gorgeous, the eyewear collections are stellar and no detail has been ignored. The mural is unique and memorable. The online presence is well curated and easy to use, the imagery makes me wish I could visit the store myself. The staff’s personality really shows through.

 

Fine Story

At Respect Eyecare, clients are not offered a choice when it comes to what lens they should use. Dr. Hoang sees this as part of his effort to constantly educate people on what fits well for their face shape, along with what works with their prescription. “I wanted to be intentional in how we offer our eyecare experience at Respect Eyecare, and that included simplifying the eyewear-buying journey for customers. We decided to only offer fully coated lenses and not give the choice to customers. Part of our brand is offering quality eyewear and that includes the lenses that go into them. We’ve also decided to partner with one lab, Zeiss, for all our orders. Again, partnering with a brand that aligns with ours,” he says. “We’ve been blown away by how often we hear praise from clients that mention they have never been told the things we share.”

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