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Sonoma Eyeworks

Fine design, classy eyewear define wine country winner.



Sonoma Eyeworks, Santa Rosa, CA

OWNERS: Dr. J. Michael Harmon;; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION:July 2000; EMPLOYEES: 9; AREA: (downtown location) 1,900 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Bevel, Lindberg, ic! berlin, Lafont, Zero G, SALT, Maui Jim; FACEBOOK:

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY IN Northern California is known for more than 400 wineries, farm-to-table dining, majestic redwoods and coastal beauty. And at its heart is Santa Rosa, a thriving community about an hour north of San Francisco.

It was this central location that drew Dr. J. Michael Harmon and Cindy Harmon to open Sonoma Eyeworks. Located in Larkfield Center 5 miles north of downtown Santa Rosa, the 1,900 square-foot optometric practice and optical department offers a full range of eyecare services and superior eyewear. “The vision was to create a niche in Sonoma County that didn’t exist — an optometric office that had high-end optical, really great employees and good service philosophy,” says Michael Harmon.

Dr. Harmon got the idea for this type of business from a partner optician who had worked in similar stores in New York City and San Francisco. After they opened the Santa Rosa practice together in 2000, his partner decided to leave. Michael took over the business with Cindy eventually joining him as manager in 2004.


Sonoma Eyeworks is located in what was once an independent pharmacy. Cindy says although their contractor — Jim Murphy and Associates — started from scratch, concrete cinder block walls limited the design possibilities. But the owners and designers ultimately decided to use this element to their advantage, resulting in an urban look with exposed concrete, T-bars, dark ceilings and ducting. “The design was before its time,” Cindy explains. “Many new build-outs that I see featured in various publications are exposing the ducting and ceilings to create a modern urban look. Ours is still timeless.”

To refine the design, the Harmons chose maple flooring and cabinetry, warm muted colors, an open black grid ceiling and LED lighting. An inviting reception area in the optical gallery’s center features custom wall-mounted display cases that Cindy says helps optimize their storage. “The vision was primarily that eyewear is jewelry for the eyes or the face, and we wanted to create an uncluttered environment that’s serene, that has a warm feeling,” she adds.

With the tagline “Now you don’t have to go to San Francisco for the best selection in fashion eyewear,” Sonoma Eyeworks has benefitted from rapid economic growth in the region since the 1990s. The business caters to a broad range of clients, from nearby beach town dwellers to college students, but all are drawn to frames with personality. “Our clients appreciate the stories behind a frame company and the materials used in the production of the product,” says Cindy. Some of their top-selling lines include Bevel, Lindberg, ic! berlin, Lafont, Zero G, SALT and Maui Jim. With an active cycling community in the area, Rudy Project also does well.


Plenty of staff members — four full-time opticians plus a front desk manager — are on hand to give clients the attention they want, raising and fulfilling high expectations. “When people aren’t rushed, they don’t leave with buyer’s remorse,” says Cindy. “They’ve been educated, they’ve been told what their lens design is, what the frame is made of.” And since Sonoma Eyeworks has its own finishing lab with a full-time lab manager, the business can process patient orders quickly — often in the same day.

On the clinic side of the practice, Dr. Harmon splits time in the office with an employee doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Ricks. Although they only have one exam room, the Harmons say they have been very happy with the volume of both new and returning patients. They also pride themselves on offering the latest technologies, including a Haag-Streit BP 900 slit lamp, Daytona Optomap retinal imaging device and Nidek SSC-330 space saving chart.

“Our exam room is less than 100 square feet, but the space saver allows us to have two computers, a chart, an NCT/Autorefractor and a slit lamp all comfortably contained within the room space,” Dr. Harmon explains. “It also allows the doctors to sit directly across from the patient while conducting the eye examination.”

All of these elements have contributed to growing success for for Sonoma Eyeworks, which this year projects it will reach $2 million in sales. “Patients have fun here,” says Dr. Harmon. “It’s a good experience and I think that’s the reason why people keep coming back.”


Five Cool Things About Sonoma Eyeworks

1. AWARD WINNING. Sonoma Eyeworks has received many awards and accolades, including being voted Best Optical Store by readers of the North Bay Bohemian newspaper for the past 13 years in a row and Best of Sonoma County-Reader’s Choice by The Press-Democrat in 2013.

2. NO INTERFERENCE. The dispensing area was designed so all computer terminals sit below the table top. Cindy Harmon says this enhances face-to-face interaction between client and optician — and it helps keep sensitive patient medical data hidden, too.

3. ROOMS WITH A VIEW. ROOMS WITH A VIEW: Interior semi-transparent windows in both the exam room and lab allow people working in those rooms to be able to see what’s going on in the front end of the office and if a patient needs assistance. “I’ve always worked in a more traditional practice where the exam room was a cave, so this has been really refreshing to be able to look out and see what’s happening out there,” Dr. Harmon says.


4. SUPPORT THE ARTS. Sonoma Eyeworks features rotating art from local artists. Linda Guzzetta, a founding member of the practice, interviews and selects artists to showcase. “We donate to and sponsor many artist-driven organizations since our inception and sell pieces for the artists,” Cindy says. “Our customers appreciate and support Sonoma County’s vibrant art community, and often drop in just to see who we are featuring.”

5. ON-SITE LAB. Dr. Harmon believes keeping the lab current has been a large part of Sonoma Eyeworks’ success, so the practice replaces and updates equipment and technology every few years. The lab inventories more than 200 pairs of single vision aspheric polycarbonate lenses with anti-reflective coating in plus, minus and cylinder powers. Recent technology upgrades include an Essilor Mr. Blue digital system in 2012 that integrates a tracer-centerer-blocker and an edger. The practice recently added VisionWeb to improve its efficiency.

Fine Story

Sonoma Eyeworks’ innovative store design attracted the attention of top professionals in the store design field and won it honors in VM+SD magazine’s International Visual Merchandising competition. The business was featured in the 2002 publication Visual Merchandising No. 3 alongside famous retailing luminaries including Tiffany & Co., Bloomingdales, and Crate and Barrel.



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