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The Man, The Brand, The Store

For this Andover, MA optician and his family, true independence in business and style is the only way to go.

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Todd Rogers, Andover, MA

OWNER: Todd Rogers Berberian; LOCATION: Andover, MA; URL: toddrogerseyewear.com ; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2014; FOUNDED: 1999; AREA: 1,900 square feet;; EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time, 2 part-time; BUILDOUT COST: $300,000; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Todd Rogers and Leigh Berberian, Tim Latrell – Newell Farm Builders; TOP BRANDS: Barton Perreira, Face à Face, Orgreen, Todd Rogers, Lindberg, Dita, Thom Browne, STATE; FACEBOOK: /toddrogersandover; TWITTER: /toddrogerseye; INSTAGRAM: /toddrogerseyewear


THE SPACE AT 18 PARK STREET in Andover, MA, now called Todd Rogers, was previously a historic bar and grill. A crooked, two-story building in the heart of downtown, it was perfect for Todd Rogers Berberian and his dream of owning a commercial space. With careful consideration given to Andover’s Historical Commission, in 2014 Todd and wife Leigh gutted and redesigned the shabby 1840s space.

Still a little crooked, the exterior sports patina’d goosenecks and authentic New Orleans gas lanterns hinting at the experience that awaits customers inside: the perfect blend of old and new.

The old was easy thanks to the building and its centuries-old exposed beams, but how to incorporate the “new”? Luckily, Leigh Berberian had handy inspiration. “Todd said, ‘I want it to look like me. If I were a building I’d want it to look like me,’” she says. “I took a good look every day at what he wore, what his proclivities are, and what people already associated with him. It was a collaboration between the two of us every step of the way and I think it ended up looking just like Todd as a building!”

She started with his hometown, Somerville, outside Boston. “It’s got some real gritty history but Todd’s also kind of refined, so I wanted to make sure the space felt like that old school, local hangout where people walk by and wave to each other, but be refined and gentlemanly and not so masculine that females didn’t feel at home in it,” Leigh explains. “I always say Todd is that guy that every guy wants to be friends with and who makes elderly women blush. He just has that kind of general appeal. So, we went into the design saying, ‘How can men and women both fall in love with this space?’”

They started by repurposing the original bar. “It tells a story and it’s bulletproof. It’s been stained, drooled on, spilled on, I’m sure thrown up on. All this stuff,” shares Todd. So, they  made it into their check out desk and dispensing tables. “So many people will rub it and say ‘Oh, I’ve had many a drink at this counter.’” The back of the bar where the liquor shelves were was refinished and stands in for frame boards. “It fits eyewear really, really well,” adds Todd. “I love the fact that it has some holes in it, some dings and cigarette burns all over it. It tells a tale. It shows its past and history.”

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They’ve had lots of fun with the space, including a riff on a famous fashion logo. “I used a lot of PhotoTech, which is digitally printable wallpaper. Instead of buying something, we customized everywhere we wanted large wall murals or patterns,” shares Leigh. “We’ve got our ‘Louis Vuitton’ wall with the logo replaced with all Todd Rogers logos.”

‘Signed’ pictures line the walls of the optical with such glasses-wearing notables as Marilyn Monroe, Harry Potter, and Gandhi. “The idea is that all these people have gotten their glasses from Todd over the years and people think it’s hysterical,” she explains.

Both are huge fans of The Kingsmen and — in a nod to British spy movies — have included a collection of Todd Rogers-branded accessories fashioned after accessories displayed in the movies.

There is a wall of album covers and collections of hard covered books with titles like Evil Genius, Prision Days and Nights and Are Men Necessary? “We actually scoured used bookstores for the funniest ones we could find,” Leigh says.

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The design is beautiful restoration meets Kartell meets your local bar, but Todd Rogers also offers the latest in lens finishing and eyecare tech. In a corner, behind glass, is a state of the art lab. They finish 95 percent of their lenses in-house and offer complete customization. They are also the only Boston-area EnChroma lens dealer. “We’re independent in our lens lines as well and we’re all about educating our patient base,” explains Todd.

There is an optometrist on site, Dr. Charlene Glynn, who has been the resident OD with Todd Rogers, and his previous practice Andover EyeCare, since 2010. In addition to providing comprehensive eye exams using an Optomap, she is experienced in pediatrics, contact lenses and ocular disease.

But it’s not all cheeky touches and fancy tech. Todd is on a mission. “The most important thing I’ve learned in my 27 years as a licensed optician is… properly educating our clients is the non-negotiable job of every optician. Knowledge is what will keep our vocation and our craft relevant.”

It’s a topic he can wax poetic on: “We, as a society, champion the best in automobiles, the finest in wines… yet consumers will easily be lured by the cheapest eyewear. It boggles my brain.” Asked why his glasses are more expensive, he educates his clients on “the technology behind each brand and why I align my business with these lens companies.”

His plans for the future? “F*cking world domination!” He’s kidding… mostly. “We’re looking to stay who we are and to not forget where we came from. But we want to continue to grow and become a name in the industry that when someone says, ‘Hey man, I’m looking for a really great frame,” people say, ‘You should really check out Todd Rogers. They’re the real deal.’”

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PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)

 

Five Cool Things About Todd Rogers

1. WORLD DOMINATION: Todd Rogers is also home to the headquarters of Todd Rogers Eyewear, an independent wholesale frame brand. While the shop is known as the flagship store, the collection designed by Todd is distributed to over 600 independent practices in the U.S. and Canada.
2. LATE FOR DINNER: At the Berberians’ wedding, many on the guest list started out as clients. Never do business with friends doesn’t apply at Todd Rogers. The downside? Todd is often late for dinner, because he’s having too much fun at work.
3. COMMIT: “Commit to the Turn.” It’s a phrase Todd has been saying since he was a kid. “When I went independent in the office or when I decided to do the frame line, we said, ‘OK, we got to commit.’ So, for us, as a family, as an optical family, as a frame family, as the all-encompassing eyewear family, we’ve said if we’re going to do this, we’re going to commit to the turn and the turn is true independence.”
4. ALL THE FEELS:  “Our marketing is really fun,” shares Leigh. “If you poke a small emotion inside someone with your marketing they are going to remember you. We do full page ads when we market in local magazines and tend to use ourselves, our family, our staff. It can be about eyesight over a lifetime with a heartwarming photo of our children or everybody naked behind a big banner that says, ‘All you need is a great pair!’”
5. READ UP: There are so many little design touches that Leigh added museum-like place cards; if you’re waiting to pick up your glasses or be seen by the doctor, you can read all the little asides that tell you why they made the design choices they did.

FINE STORY

Winning awards isn’t the be-all and end-all of a successful business … but it doesn’t hurt. In addition to being named this year’s America’s Finest Optical Retailer first place winner, Todd Rogers also won the inaugural “OPTImum Independent Retailer of the Year” at this past Vision Expo East, which celebrates independent boutique retailers by showcasing their products, storefronts, visions and — most importantly — their stories. But that’s not it for the accolades. In 2017, Todd himself was named “Optician of the Year for Massachusetts.” His response upon receiving the news? “All I could afford for years was peanut butter sandwiches. Let’s go get a steak.”

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • Jennifer Coppel:Todd Rogers seems to consistently deliver charm and authenticity in all aspects of his business.  From the comfortable yet artistic interior of his store to his playful advertising campaigns, he connects with his clients and delivers a high level of professionalism.
  • Dr. Mick Kling:Very unique space. What sticks out are the unique and creative ways they’ve displayed not just their eyewear, but also some of the pictures and frames. It looks like they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to be creative and unique. They seem to be on top of their social media, and get quite a bit of press.
  • Robert  Bell:What is often missing in optical retailing is the story. Today the story is harder to tell well because it must be told, engagingly, in everything one does. One must live the brand! Todd Rogers is one master storyteller. Their marketing pushes the envelope and, somehow, makes me think they’re challenging me to come up with reasons not to shop with them. I’m a fan of “less is more” in an optical retail shop. But, every once in a while, someone comes along, breaks the rules and does it extraordinarily well.

Having built a career in service journalism, Dee has been covering the eyecare industry for over a decade. As editor-in-chief of INVISION Magazine, she is passionate about telling independent ECPs stories and can be reached directly at dee@invisionmag.com.

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America's Finest

This North Carolina Practice Greets Patients with a Beer, a Song and a Wag of the Tail

Simple word of mouth has kept them growing since day one.

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Swell Vision Center, Leland, NC

OWNER: Craig Scibal, OD; URL:swellvisioncenter.com; FOUNDED: 2016; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: BMH Architects, Bryan Humphrey Designs, Ken Hardy, Jonathan Pratt; EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time, 1 part-time; AREA: 2,100 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Todd Rogers, Moscot, OGI, Seraphin, Maui Jim; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/swellvisioncenter; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/swellvisioncenter; BUILDOUT COST: $300,000


Owner Dr. Craig Scibal’s favorite patient is one that ‘comes in with their dog, has a beer and gets to know the practice while receiving exceptional eyecare and listening to great music.’

H AVE YOU EVER asked yourself who your favorite type of patient is? Or is that the sort of question small business owners are no longer allowed to permit themselves? Dr. Craig Scibal, owner of Swell Vision Center in Leland, NC, has no such qualms. “My favorite patient is one that comes in with their dog, has a beer, gets to know us while receiving exceptional eyecare and listening to great music, and then leaves excited to tell their friends about their experience.”

Clearly, here’s a practice that knows who and what it is, something its clientele — described by Scibal as “mostly newly retired happy folks from the Northeast,” seem to appreciate. Scibal and his team have pulled off that rare feat of delivering top-level patient care and eyewear while remaining true to themselves.

Swell Vision Center opened its doors cold one April day in 2016 in Leland, a small town west of Wilmington. Their first patient walked in around 11 a.m. and asked if they were open. “Admittedly shocked that somebody came in, my staff member and I were slightly speechless and stumbled upon the word ‘yes.’ Since that day, Swell has continued to grow, with most of our advertising and marketing being word of mouth.”

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In high school, Scibal worked for the private practice his dad owned for about 25 years in Morehead City, NC. He later worked at Elite Vision Care, a private practice in League City, TX, while attending optometry school in Houston.

“I knew that I wanted to be in Leland, NC, based on the growth it had seen,” says Scibal. Thanks to the huge influx of retirees southeastern North Carolina has seen in recent years, Brunswick has been the fastest growing county in the state since 2015. “The area really only had one other place for eyecare, so I figured I’d try to get in early before it became too saturated.”

Swell has made a point of offering all the latest technology and frame lines, carrying mostly independent eyewear brands that are unique to the area. “We’ve tried to shy away from having eyewear that can be purchased everywhere around town and I think patients enjoy it. Not only do patients appreciate it, but staff really appreciate it when they can tell you’re invested in the practice, so it’s a win-win.”

Dr. Scibal knew he wanted to be located in Leland, NC, based on the growth the town has seen in recent years, largely thanks to retirees.

According to Scibal, the office was designed so that somebody would come in and feel at home — not at a doctor’s office. Using a lot of neutral colors, polished concrete, metal and brick, the office design relays a relaxed and professional atmosphere. The office is split into a front half consisting of a reception desk/area and optical boutique, and a back half consisting of the pretest/exam/and contact lens area. The two are separated by frosted glass barn doors that create a modern feel with a comfortable, homey twist. Candles and oil diffusers enhance the olfactory experience.

Visiting Swell is a bit like calling on that one friend who puts you to shame by being such a thoughtful host. The idea, Scibal says, is that from the moment a patient calls the practice, they start to wonder if they are even talking to a doctor’s office. “With questions like, ‘What would you like to drink upon your arrival — water/beer/wine/soda/tea/coffee?’ to ‘Are you cool with dogs?’ to ‘What kind of music do you like?’ the patient realizes this isn’t just another office.

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Little does the patient know, every answer they give is written down and studied by the staff prior to their arrival.” When they turn up, their favorite drinks and music are waiting for them. (See Five Cool Things on page 71).

The personable approach carries over to Swell’s online presence. Says Scibal, “I think your website should be quick, clean, and informative. For a lot of people, it is the first impression they’ll get of your establishment and brand.” Swell’s site incorporates professional images of the office, logos of the eyewear, and information on the staff and the doctor. “So in that sense, I see our website as all three.” Possibly due to the demographic, Scibal doesn’t see social media as much of a sales channel or foot traffic driver, posting once every few weeks or so, mostly highlighting a new frame line, staff introduction post, or a funny optometry meme.

“I am nothing without my staff,” admits Scibal. The first interaction with Swell Vision Center is typically with the thick British accent of the receptionist, Helen. “She truly defines customer service and makes every single person feel comfortable and feeling like they want a ‘cup o’ tea.’ Both of the opticians/technicians are cross-trained and can float amongst the office performing any task as needed. Both are genuinely excited about eyewear and typically rub off their excitement on patients.”

PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Swell Vision Center

1. PARTY TIME. Every time Swell gets another 100 5-star Google reviews, they throw a staff party, ranging from axe throwing to Topgolf.

2. TUNE IN. Upon entering the exam room, patients hear the music they requested during their appointment call, streaming at 50 percent volume so they hear it immediately, then a bit lower once the exam gets underway.

3. LOCAL BREWS. Swell is constantly rotating its craft beer selection with local breweries. With the craft beer industry booming in the area, it adds local flavor to the experience.

4. SLICE OF LIFE. Every year, Swell sponsors the photo booth at the local Children’s Museum. The event, called ‘Pizza Putt,’ converts the entire museum into a putt-putt course and brings in local pizza vendors and breweries.

5. GOODIES. Swell has custom Freakers (drink covers seen on Shark Tank), custom socks, and T-shirts/hoodies/polos for giving away to loyal patients.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Swell’s personal touch and welcoming approach to eyecare and eyewear shine through in their hospitality and how they take care of their customers. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • Love the story — something so genuine and simple about the honesty and less-is-more approach. Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear, Andover, MA
  • This is a great example of independent optometry and the personalized service that is so critical for differentiation and success. Great cabinetry, and love the little personal service touchpoints. The attention to detail in regard to customers’ preferred beverages and music is a nice touch, as are the craft beer offerings supporting local business. The content on their digital platforms contains a nice balance and shows off the warm personality of the business. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

 

Fine Story

One of the most important members of the team at Swell is Horatio (full name Horatio Fizkin Scibal), a “very well-behaved, found in a trash can, beautiful rescue dog who is the official greeter,” according to Scibal. He greets each patient at the entrance, follows them through pre-testing and the exam (he has a bed next to the exam chair), and helps them pick out eyewear. Since the day Scibal rescued Horatio in 2014, “he has been the most gentle and loyal dog I’ve ever known.” When a new patient calls to set up an appointment they are always asked if they mind having a “sweet pup named Horatio” roaming the office at their appointment. “In 3.5 years of being open, we’ve probably had less than 10 patients say they’d prefer him not to be there,” says Scibal. Horatio features prominently in marketing material, and behind the front desk there’s even a painted portrait of him at the phoropter getting his eyes checked.

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Let This California Practice Show You What the Perfect Balance of Brick-and-Mortar Experience and Social Media Engagement Looks Like

They’ve branded themselves the ‘Eyewear Gurus’ for the millennial generation.

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Spring Hill Eyecare, Spring Hill, TN

OWNER: Rob Szeliga, OD; URL:springhilleyecare.com; FOUNDED: 2005; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2018; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Rob Stensland, Optometric Architects (architect); Amy LeAnn Szeliga (interior designer); EMPLOYEES: 13 full-time, 4 part-time; AREA: 8,300 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Dailies Total 1/Multifocals, Kate Spade, Costa, Shamir, neurolens; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/springhilleyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/springhilleyecare; BUILDOUT COST: $1.6 million


Owner/OD
Dr. Park L. Hsieh of Eye Love
Optometry in Pinole, CA.

PRIOR TO OPENING Eye Love Optometry, Dr. Park L. Hsieh experienced the full breadth of optometry, practicing simultaneously in three modalities: a surgery owned by MDs, a multi-doctor optometric practice, and on-call coverage for a corporate chain. “It gave me a chance to evaluate in which setting I felt the most comfortable,” he recalls. “I really enjoyed the continuity of care in the private practice setting, seeing the same families on a yearly basis.” Similarly, long-time collaborator Aidan Vo had his own vision of the ideal optical experience. “We decided to dive, headfirst, into taking over an established optometric practice — with me tending to the clinical care of patients, while Aidan managed matters relating to the optical.”

In 2008, Hsieh purchased an 11-year-old practice in El Sobrante, CA, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and with Vo set about transforming it. They gave themselves a crash course in all areas of the business: customer service, patient education and flow, diagnostic tech and high-quality ophthalmic products. The optical was stocked with independent eyewear brands, including a handful of handcrafted overseas lines that helped them stand out. The next level beckoned, and they shifted to neighboring Pinole, CA, in 2012. The move allowed them to completely rebrand, and Eye Love Optometry was born. Buoyed by a 2018 remodel, Hsieh now feels the practice appeals to a wider patient base, though when pressed to name a target demographic he cites “professional women aged 25-55 and their family and friends.”

Hsieh says Eye Love’s clientele also includes many patients with an eye for art and fashion, and a substantial contingent of “more progressive, hip and edgy Millennials.” Accordingly, he and Vo opted for an aesthetic that is clean, sleek, minimalist and modern to serve as a backdrop for the eyewear, which is consciously presented as art.

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A key feature of the optical is the “eYebar,” a long custom-designed eyewear display case that also serves as a communal frame selection and dispensing table, catering to the Millennial emphasis on the unique experience. “Why else would they line up for two hours to experience a unique craft cocktail concocted by an expert mixologist? Well, since eyewear are works of art in their own right nowadays, the concept of the eYebar makes a lot of sense.”

Opticians at Eye Love Optometry are branded as “Eyewear Gurus” on their business cards, on the website, and in a monthly ad campaign in a local magazine. They essentially serve as personal stylists to patients. Says Hsieh, “They ask probing and open-ended questions about our patients’ lifestyle…as well as their preferred attire, colors, etc. They get a sense of the individual needs of each patient and, therefore, are better able to uniquely guide them, based on their own preferences.”

The team at EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY, including owner/OD Dr. Park L. Hsieh, third from left, and optical manager Aidan Vo, third from right.

Complementing the brick-and-mortar experience is Eye Love’s relentlessly creative use of social media (see Five Cool Things on p. 67). Hsieh hired a professional to photograph selected eyewear frames, “strategically using rays of sunlight, which hit the frames at certain angles, to cast interesting shadows behind and around them. Playing around with the position and number of frames, unexpectedly beautiful shapes were created. We were then able to integrate this photography into our website and social media.”

Eye Love’s dedication to staff development is serious, involving bi-weekly check-ins, quarterly reviews, continuing education and visits from ophthalmic reps. Opticians are encouraged to become ABO certified, with all costs covered. Community engagement is also stressed. Eye Love donates eyewear, supports a local Multicultural Children’s Bookstore, and has even helped pay for a patient’s journey to compete in the Junior Olympics.

Dr. Hsieh recommends an Optomap retinal scan to all patients. “Every patient who opts to have it is given the option of having the results e-mailed to them, reinforcing the high-tech nature of our practice, by allowing our patients to see the inside of their own eyes,” he says. The practice has invested in high-tech diagnostic equipment, and another standout feature on the medical side is its Myopia Control Specialty, reflecting Hsieh’s belief that many eye doctors don’t do enough to address this epidemic.

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According to Hsieh, Eye Love Optometry’s mission is twofold: “to exceed expectations and instill confidence,” in terms of both eyecare and eyewear. “Building a personal rapport with our patients has always been our secret to gaining their loyalty.”

PHOTO GALLERY (27 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Eye Love Optometry

1. PLEASE YOUR SELF. Eye Love Optometry’s iPad-based selfie photo station allows photos to be taken and sent to be shared on social media. Patients are given a “Selfie Card” encouraging them to share the photos. The station uses Simple Booth’s Halo software, which makes the service fully customizable.

2. WINNING STRATEGY. To boost social media engagement, Eye Love holds contests that encourage patients to follow it on Instagram and Facebook. The patient, after showing that they have followed the business, is automatically entered in a raffle to win a predetermined prize.

3. MONTHLY THANKS. For its “Patient of the Month” program, the practice chooses (with their permission) an ideal patient who is rewarded with a gift basket or small prize. “This reinforces to our followers that we truly do care,” says Hsieh.

4. A LITTLE YELP. Selected patients are issued a “Yelper Card” that says, “YELP us to spread the LOVE!” A QR code with instructions to “SCAN ME” automatically directs patients with smartphones to the specific web page that lets them write a Yelp review.

5. SHARING THE LOVE. The store donates eyewear to a child in need whenever a patient purchases an annual supply of contacts through LensFerry, a program allowing incremental monthly payments.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • I really like what they’re doing! NBill Gerber, Contentlinq & OMG! Marketing Group, San Diego, CA
  • Under Dr. Park Hsieh’s leadership, Eye Love Optometry have thoughtfully designed their store, logo and brand to create a space that lets the eyewear as art speak for itself. Eye Love Optometry’s use of technology, combined with a personal touch, brings forward an optical retailer that gets what customers want today. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • Love the logo, and the minimalist design — combined with the colorful marketing — works for these guys. Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear, Andover, MA
  • The term ‘Eyewear Guru’ is an interesting way to project an aura of expertise for their opticians. The practice appears very advanced on the clinical side, which works well with the streamlined, modern optical environment. The Myopic Control Clinic is a great focus. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

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America's Finest

Want 15 Years of Growth While Keeping Your Team Close and Building the Optical of Your Dreams? This Tennessee Practice Can Show You How

They knew that if they treated patients right, the business would succeed.

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Spring Hill Eyecare, Spring Hill, TN

OWNER: Rob Szeliga, OD; URL:springhilleyecare.com; FOUNDED: 2005; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2018; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Rob Stensland, Optometric Architects (architect); Amy LeAnn Szeliga (interior designer); EMPLOYEES: 13 full-time, 4 part-time; AREA: 8,300 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Dailies Total 1/Multifocals, Kate Spade, Costa, Shamir, neurolens; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/springhilleyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/springhilleyecare; BUILDOUT COST: $1.6 million


ROB SZELIGA MOVED to Spring Hill, TN, about 30 miles south of Nashville, with his family as a teenager in 1993. They were in the vanguard of an influx that has seen the population grow from 1,200 to over 40,000. He graduated from Southern College of Optometry (SCO) in 2005 and opened Spring Hill Eyecare “ice cold.” He and his wife Amy had a clear idea of what they wanted the business to be: a practice that offers the total package and only refers when surgery is needed. “I spent 100 percent of my time and energy growing my practice — not filling in elsewhere,” he recalls. “Luckily, I had strong support — a wife teaching elementary school and my mom and two sisters as my first employees. We knew that if we treated patients right, the practice would grow.” They started with 1,200 square feet, their newborn son Jackson literally growing up in the office. “My second lane didn’t have a phoropter, it had a crib,” says Szeliga. By their 10th anniversary they already had one major expansion under their belt and needed another.

Spring Hill Eyecare owner Rob Szeliga OD with his wife Amy and family.

The Szeliga’s found their dream location in a vacant 1870 farmhouse, but the structure would require demolition if it was going to work. “Without the proper approach, this would not be well received in a community growing as fast as Spring Hill, and quickly losing its small-town charm,” recalls Szeliga. They posted a letter on their blog explaining their plans, and this honest approach elicited overwhelmingly positive feedback online.
In the months before the house and barns were demolished, Szeliga would leave work, change clothes and get busy reclaiming their great features, including 11 fireplace mantles, original barnwood/beadboard, old doors (now frame boards), giant parlor doors, live edge maple breakroom tables milled from original trees, wavy glass muntin windows, and a cast-iron tub flower bed. The new building’s layout centered around preserving a giant, centuries-old oak tree.

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The juxtaposition of the salvaged fixtures and curios with the practice’s modern equipment lends a unique vibe to the exam rooms, each of which has a theme, including “garage” (the practice’s logo painted on a 1940s truck door) and “music” (with 100-year-old instruments) to name just two. Spring Hill Eyecare’s dry eye treatment center is called The Greenhouse after the one on the original property. “You go in the room with dry eyes facing old rusty tools,” says Szeliga. “When you get up from the massaging chair your view is of lush plants and flowers; you leave refreshed.”

Catering to the town’s expanding demographic, the team sees everyone from InfantSEE babies to geriatric patients. Among its numerous specialty facilities is a 900-sq-ft. sports vision/vision therapy center.
Szeliga used to spend about $400 a month on newspaper ads, but he says that all changed when, for a one-time fee of that same amount, he hired a patient to install a marquee sign under the practice’s street sign. “When the sign is not describing an upcoming event, we try to keep it full of puns or statements about pop culture, particularly eye-related ones.” He says simply keeping this sign funny and relevant generates enough community feedback and new patients that he doesn’t bother much with traditional marketing anymore.

Word of mouth is Spring Hill Eyecare’s other main form of advertising, much of it generated by creatively cultivating ties with the community through charitable and other events.  Examples include Kids’ Day and a Pre-Parade Hot Chocolate Party every year before the Christmas parade. “We even begged to get the parade path extended to go by our new location to keep this tradition,” Szeliga says. Spring Hill Eyecare sponsors many schools, teams and causes, but they also enjoy creating their own charitable events, like their “Give A Gobbler” Thanksgiving turkey campaign. The team “gobbles” loudly for donations. “For larger donations even our doctors gobble!”

One of the foundation cornerstones of the 1870s farmhouse that once stood on the site is displayed in the optical.

Szeliga says that while there are ECPs with flashier sites, he’s proud of the genuine feel he’s achieved with Spring Hill Eyecare’s online presence. “Too many websites have just generic stock photos … Our most popular posts are those involving personal photos or stories about myself, my family and my team.”

He credits the trust he has established with his prized team for much of Spring Hill Eyecare’s success. And it’s a quality he repays handsomely. A believer in continuing education, he has taken his team to the state optometry meeting for the last 10 years and to IDOC’s Orlando meeting the last five. But it’s not all work and study. “For our 2018 Christmas party I rented a Hummer limo for a Christmas lights tour and created a jigsaw puzzle to reveal clues about their Christmas gift: a four-night cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate an excellent 2018,” he says.

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Crucially, through all the rapid growth, the practice has never lost the close-knit feel of the early days. “While I no longer have family working at my office,” says Szeliga, “we’ve been able to keep the family atmosphere for 13 years.”

PHOTO GALLERY (26 IMAGES)

 

Five Cool Things About Spring Hill Eyecare

1. TV STARS. Szeliga’s repurposing of the old farmhouse that once stood on the site of the practice was featured in DIY Network’s Nashville Flipped series.

2. GOOGLE TOUR. Its website features a Google virtual tour: the photographers liked the building so much they shot extra rooms in exchange for being able to feature them on their website.

3. NEVER LEAVING. The coffee bar has two TVs, charging stations, customized coloring books for grownups, mini-fridge and a Keurig coffeemaker.

4. ACCOLADES GALORE. Office manager Melanie Jenkins was named Tennessee Paraoptometric of the year in 2018, SECO Paraoptometric of the year in 2019 and AOA Paraoptometric of the year in 2019.

5. WALKING ADS. At a community event this year staff had low-cost suns made with their logo and a sticker: “Redeem for $25 off a pair of sunglasses.” Only a few people did, but “others [wore] them around town,” says Szeliga. Next year’s target: high school marching bands.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Outstanding community engagement throughout the planning and construction of their new location. Honoring the legacy of the former structure by incorporating materials and elements is a testament to their respect and concern for the community they serve. Nathan Troxell, PPG, Monroeville, PA
  • Spring Hill Eyecare has built an optical business that’s people- and purpose-focused, and they’ve fostered a growing business by organically growing their practice, while remaining true to providing quality eyecare in a welcoming environment. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • The space is bonkers! Overall one of our faves! Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear, Andover, MA
  • The focus on local, independent optometry is evident across all aspects of the business. The website shines. It is easy to maneuver, has all the info one would be looking for and the imagery is great. I felt like I knew the practice and the doctor after visiting. The themed exam rooms are also a great idea as they create a relaxed, eclectic environment for their high-tech functions. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

 

Fine Story

Beneath a window in Spring Hill Eyecare’s optical, customers will find a hefty, timeworn, earth-stained rock that, while adding natural charm, clearly bears the marks of human shaping. It was one of the foundation cornerstones of the 1870 farmhouse that once stood on the site. The stone was hand-cut in the 1860s. Says Szeliga, “Opening my practice cold was a lot like the process of forming this hand-cut stone. It took patience — and patients! Like the old house, we started with a strong foundation that was built on two pearls I learned early: ‘What’s good for the patient is good for the practice,’ and ‘See everything we do from the patient’s point of view.’ Trends and tech are constantly changing…but we continually grow based on our strong foundation.”

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