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FIRST PLACE: Texas OD Matt Barber felt the city was underserved; now it enjoys top-class care and unique eyewear in a location that rivals any in the U.S.

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CHROMA Modern Eyewear Eyecare / Fort Worth, TX

OWNER: Matthew G. Barber, OD | URL: chromamodern.com | YEAR FOUNDED: 2019 | YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2020 |AREA: 5,400 sq. ft. | EMPLOYEES: 10 full-time | FACEBOOK: facebook.com/chromamodern | INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/chromamodern | TOP BRANDS: Kirk & Kirk, Blackfin, Etnia Barcelona, Dior, FEB31st | BUILD OUT COST: $2.5 million | ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Bart Shaw and Katie Dunaway of Ibanez Shaw Architecture


FOR 20 YEARS, Dr. Matt Barber paid a monthly fee for the dubious privilege of practicing under the brand name of a recognized “chain” of optometric offices. During those two decades he saw the profession of optometry change, moving in the direction of higher volume, decreased quality of care, and more corporate involvement. “None of these trends had the patient’s best interest at heart,” he recalls. Barber knew he had more to offer his Forth Worth, TX community — a memorable eyecare experience that would be the antithesis of this gray corporate model.

Chroma is often defined as “purity of color.” Another definition Barber is fond of is “freedom from white or gray.” So it seemed the perfect name for the practice he envisioned. He debuted the CHROMA brand in 2019 at his previous location before opening his current office in 2020 with a mission to raise the bar on eyecare in Fort Worth. CHROMA not only achieves that but does so in one of the most striking optical spaces ever to grace the pages of INVISION. As one of the judges of the 2022 America’s Finest Optical Retailers competition put it, CHROMA is “eyecare as an artform”— and an undeniably worthy winner of this year’s contest.

Located in the city’s Cultural District — a lively neighborhood whose attractions range from art galleries and gardens to live music venues and rodeos — CHROMA easily holds its own, housed in a modern tilt-wall concrete building with a suspended walkway connecting the parking area to the front door. “We are in the cultural center of Fort Worth with world renowned museums and we needed to look the part,” says Barber.

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Our ‘America’s Finest’ Contest Winner Reinvented Eyecare in Fort WorthOur ‘America’s Finest’ Contest Winner Reinvented Eyecare in Fort Worth
Our ‘America’s Finest’ Contest Winner Reinvented Eyecare in Fort WorthOur ‘America’s Finest’ Contest Winner Reinvented Eyecare in Fort Worth

In the optical, eyewear is displayed in floating glass shelving supported by 52 steel rods — powder-coated in white and mounted from the floor and ceiling — within a cantilevered glass space that itself hovers 10 feet over Montgomery Street. Lit by LED lighting from above, the space puts on a “show” at night. One wall of the optical features frames in clear backlit acrylic cubes. With 20-foot floor-to-ceiling windows allowing an abundance of natural light, the patient is drawn in and compelled to browse.

Owner Matthew G. Barber, OD

Owner Matthew G. Barber, OD

The pre-test area lies beyond a floating partition made of “lens” shapes that serves as an art piece while also providing privacy and sound dampening. This floating wall underwent several revisions, with Barber ultimately settling on a design by his architect Bart Shaw featuring a clean, simple felt wall attached with cables from the floor and ceiling, incorporating different repeating ophthalmic lens shapes. Adjoining this area are the exam lanes and contact lens fitting area — described by Barber as “open and sexy” — which make discreet but striking use of purple, one of CHROMA’s signature hues. Polished concrete floors and modern lines are found throughout.

Embarking on such an ambitious design wasn’t an easy or straightforward decision. Barber recalls the process as both “cool” and “scary.” “Cool because it worked and scary because it can be difficult to cut the cord and truly stand as an independent.

Our ‘America’s Finest’ Contest Winner Reinvented Eyecare in Fort Worth

Every optical design firm I spoke with wanted to completely line the windows with cookie cutter display boards.” Barber and Shaw had to design and custom build the floating optical steel/glass pillars and the rest of the office in order to achieve the look and feel they needed. “We wanted our name to be hip and modern without needing my name attached to it. I wanted patients to enjoy music as they walked down the walkway into and out of our building, during pre-test, or as they browsed the optical.”

In his previous location, patients would bring in frames they had purchased in Dallas, L.A. or Aspen. Barber wanted CHROMA’s patients to be able to purchase unique eyewear without having to travel outside of Fort Worth. “We try to seek out unique frame lines that are not currently offered in our area.”

CHROMA’s marketing strategy, blogs and website are constantly evolving, with monthly e-blasts sent out to keep clients interested and informed. Google ads have become an important tool, as has social media. Says Barber: “We attempt to stay fresh on Instagram and Facebook without posting for the sake of posting. We incorporate HIPAA-compliant texting to patients and internal communication within the practice to help disseminate information quickly and efficiently.”

Barber practices alongside Dr. Viren Choksi in CHROMA’s six exam lanes and hopes another OD or two will join them eventually, offering full-scope eyecare augmented by state-of-the-art diagnostic technology. The team edges most jobs in-house to save on cost of goods and offer quick turnaround times.

Our ‘America’s Finest’ Contest Winner Reinvented Eyecare in Fort Worth

At CHROMA, eyewear is displayed in floating glass shelving supported by steel rods. One wall of the optical features frames in clear backlit acrylic cubes.

When it comes to choosing frames, contact lens brands, equipment, EHRs and other tools, Barber says his priority is finding companies and reps “that really genuinely want to partner with us. It’s pretty easy to see when an agenda is pushed versus what truly is best for the patient and practice. We appreciate transparency and honesty and seek out partners that want a successful long-term relationship versus a quick profit.”

Ultimately CHROMA is a reflection of Barber’s belief that “life is too short to be unhappy. We should all work in an environment and culture that makes us feel good. Hopefully, we make a difference in our patients’ lives — a genuine smile goes a long way.”

Our ‘America’s Finest’ Contest Winner Reinvented Eyecare in Fort Worth

Five Cool Things About CHROMA Modern Eyewear Eyecare

1. A SPECTACLE. Patients comment daily on the scenic view from the optical and the architectural design of CHROMA’s building.

2. SPLASH OF COLOR. The contact lens fitting area is replete with purple powder-coated sinks.

3. EYE TUNES. Music is a big part of the experience at CHROMA. Throwback Thursdays are all ’80s. Says Barber: ‘Patients have said they were dancing down the runway to our front door.’

4. CHEERS! Multiple pairs or an annual supply of CLs earns a patient a ‘CHROMA cup’ stainless steel tumbler.

5. BEHIND GLASS. Patients who purchase three or more pairs are given a wooden display case with a glass top to keep their frame purchases organized and fun — “with room for more!”

Fine Story

At CHROMA the staff are inculcated with a team ethic and a culture of “positivity and good vibes,” Barber says. Three lead staff members operate the Optical, Front Desk and Clinic areas. He sets three rules for team members: You must “have compassion and care for our patients, a positive attitude, and be willing to have fun/smile. Every month we have a ‘Rock Star’ of the month nominated by their staff peers. The Rock Star receives a nametag to wear during that month, recognition and a cash award.”

PHOTO GALLERY (28 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • Next time I am in Fort Worth a visit to CHROMA will be on my itinerary, even if just to walk through this beautiful building. The optical showroom encourages patients to have fun along with the staff, which is a recipe for success. — Jenn Denham, Director of Growth Marketing, Optify, Salt Lake City, UT
  • What better way to show you truly think outside of the box than to create the most beautiful commitment to the community through a modern approach to eyewear and eyecare. This business celebrates what is possible when you imagine independent eyecare as an artform, as monumental, standing out as a leader in design, frame selection and service. — David Duralde, Chief Creative Officer, OGI Eyewear, Minneapolis, MN
  • Wow… just wow! Exterior, interior… I’m blown away! Colors, ceiling detail, clever way of taking the windows out of play for merchandising — all the while taking advantage of RGB LED at night. I LOVE IT! — Jan Ennis, President/CEO, Ennco Display Systems, Redmond, WA
  • Love the accolade and attention paid to staff. — Paige Kraemer, ABOC, Sales Consultant – Minnesota, Cherry Optical Lab, Green Bay, WI

(All photos: Photography by Chad M. Davis, AIA)

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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