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A Legacy of Care

This southern Minnesota practice has been deeply immersed in its community and providing top-level care for 115 years.

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Carlson-Tillisch Eye Clinic, Mankato, MN

OWNERS: G. John Lach, OD, Matthew Downs, OD, and Murphy Grotewold, OD; URL: carlsontillisch.com; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/mankato.vision; INSTAGRAM: @carlsontillisch; FOUNDED: 1909; Opened featured location: 2018; AREA: 8,640 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Acuvue, SALT., Maui Jim, Prodesign, Optomap; EMPLOYEES: 28 full-time, 4 part-time


 

Still Delivering on a Century-Old Legacy of Eyecare

G. John Lach, OD and Matthew Downs, OD

CARLSON-TILLISCH EYE Clinic has been an eyecare staple in southern Minnesota in one form or another since 1909, when the two sides of this hyphenated business were separate clinics. It’s the kind of place where staff hear from patients that they remember visiting older locations, or that relatives from earlier generations were patients even before the practices were merged by Drs. Dale Carlson and Skip Tillisch in the 1980s. The partners added a secondary location in New Ulm at the end of that decade, before eventually turning over the keys to current owners Drs. G. John Lach and Matthew Downs, who started at the practice as associate ODs in the ’90s and early 2000s, respectively. The business is now looking confidently to the future after marking twin milestones with the Mankato office celebrating its 115th anniversary and the New Ulm location marking its 35th.

It may have a long and venerable history, but what strikes visitors to the Mankato office immediately is the clean, modern aesthetic. Natural light floods the space, complemented by additional lighting to enhance the appeal of the frame collection, which comprises over 1,000 pieces, with top brands including Etnia Barcelona, Kate Spade, Maui Jim Sunwear, Prodesign, SALT., and Seraphin.

Carlson-Tillisch’s comprehensive exam process begins with a technician greeting the patient at check-in by name and escorting them back for pretesting. According to Tami Gay, ABOC, director of team administration, “We prioritize staying at the forefront of technology to ensure our patients receive the highest quality care.” To this end, the practice recently acquired the Lumenis OptiLight IPL and introduced Dry Eye Rescue products, enhancing its offerings for patients with dry eye conditions. “Furthermore, implementing Dr. Contact Lens at our practice has streamlined the process of ordering contact lenses for our patients, greatly improving their experience,” she says.

Still Delivering on a Century-Old Legacy of Eyecare

We prioritize staying at the forefront of technology to ensure our patients receive the highest quality care,’ says Tami Gay, the practice’s director of team administration.

At handoff, a technician or optician is brought to the exam room to help the patient check out and purchase glasses or contacts that best fit their needs. An in-house lab allows for some orders to be completed in just a few hours.

If pressed to identify one element that really makes the practice stand out, Gay points to her fellow team members. “Our staff is truly what makes Carlson-Tillisch Eye Clinic the best. They love to learn and care about our patients and each other. We offer to pay for their certification for CPO, ABOC, or NCLE. They also want to go above and beyond for our patients, trying to find solutions for things like broken glasses or if they are running low on contacts before their next order comes in.”

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Team members are supportive of each other outside of work, too. Some are a part of the arts community, says Gay, “and we like to attend their performances to cheer them on. We also celebrate their triumphs and are always willing to lend a shoulder when they are having a more difficult time.”

Social media marketing is handled in-house using tools like Canva to help design posts. “We love to show off our staff and the fun that we have at the office, while also educating people,” she says.

Still Delivering on a Century-Old Legacy of Eyecare

Carlson-Tillisch’s enthusiasm for community events presents another marketing opportunity: “When we attend events, we pass out pamphlets giving information on comprehensive eye exams and our business cards. We started a new thing [recently] where we pass out coupons for a free Optomap image to new patients at their first full exam with us.”

Dr. Murphy Grotewold, who shadowed at the office during her undergrad years and celebrates six years of practicing with Carlson-Tillisch this year, summed up this spirit nicely, telling INVISION, “I decided to practice at Carlson-Tillisch because it was community-centered and did things like sponsoring local events and fundraisers. I believe that a practice that prioritizes the well-being of the community will inherently prioritize patient care.”

Five Cool Things About Carlson-Tillisch Eye Clinic

1. EYE-CATCHING. The practice partnered with the eyedentity company to capture iris pictures of its entire staff, creating unique artwork that now adorns its office walls.

2. CENTER STAGE. Dr. Murphy Grotewold was the lead in the recent production of “9 TO 5” by Merely Players, the local community theater group.

3. GO MAVS! Staff recently bonded over the March Madness feats of the University of Minnesota, Mankato’s victorious men’s and women’s teams.

Still Delivering on a Century-Old Legacy of Eyecare

4. FUN TIMES. Their vibrant “fun committee” orchestrates various games, activities, and trivia contests for staff, fostering team spirit and community engagement.

5. VINTAGE VIBE. During Sunglass Celebration week, staff indulged in nostalgia with a themed dress-up day, honoring decades past.

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JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Outstanding patient care and a stellar team are the key foundations for this solid, independently minded business. You can see first-hand the attention to detail in every aspect of the experience. — David Duralde, Chief Creative Officer, OGI Eyewear, Minneapolis, MN
  • A beautiful modern building with patient-focused care and staff that truly cares. Beautiful! — Jenn Denham, Head of Business Development, Review Wave, McKinney, TX
  • The exterior is well complemented by the unique eyeglass artwork. — Jan Ennis, President/CEO, Ennco Display Systems, Redmond, WA
  • The interior and exterior are well kept and inviting. The selfie wall and giant orange glasses are highlights. I enjoyed the history of the clinics merging and their long and involved history in the community. — Paige Kraemer, ABOC, Sales Consultant – Minnesota, Cherry Optical Lab, Green Bay, WI

 

Fine Story

Carlson-Tillisch maintains a tireless community presence. According to Gay, it has participated in trunk or treating, Junior Achievement Big Bowl, golf tournaments, Mankato Dancing with the Stars, business networking events and the United Way Human Foosball Tournament. It also sponsors arts in the community—a sculpture walk, college plays and musicals—gives presentations at Early Childhood Family Education classes about the importance of eye exams for little ones, and was inducted into the Greater Mankato Growth organization’s Business Hall of Fame in 2021.

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