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The Rx-Men: Extraordinary ECPs Reveal Their Secret Powers

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Optical League of Extraordinary ECPs

When Metropolis was menaced by evil-doers, a handsome alien in blue tights and a red cape appeared to protect the city. When Gotham City was overrun by crazy criminals, a millionaire playboy dressed up like a bat to strike fear into the hearts of his foes. And when villains began to roam the streets of New York, its citizens placed their hopes in a wall-crawling teenager in a spider suit.

But what of eyecare customers? Was there no one to treat them with sensational service? To stave off conflict where it rises? To save the most mangled of frames and return them to rights in the blink of an eye? To fight the insurance bureaucracy and rise victorious on the side of their patient??

Never fear, true believer, for a new breed of heroes has stepped boldly into the limelight, ready to take on any obstacle with no hesitation. These optical champions fight for truth, justice and the best possible eyecare experience for all on a daily basis. Some were gifted with powers beyond mortal ken, while others have earned their skills through knowledge, repetition and a dedication to be the very best.

Let those who would perpetrate average service, mediocre dispensing and a lackluster patient experience tremble, for INVISION gives you … Optical’s League of Extraordinary ECPs!


ALTER EGO: JON DuCOTE
BASE OF OPERATIONS: EYEWORKS OF ATLANTA, ATLANTA, GA

“I AM THE MASTER OF ADJUSTING! THE ALL-POWERFUL FRAME MAGICIAN!” There is no such thing as ego when you are a superhero who routinely saves the day and loves doing it like ADJUSTOMAN.

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“Long ago when I worked at Sunglass Hut, ODs would send their patients to me for adjustments,” says Jon DuCote. “I really do love adjusting frames for people. It’s one of the most satisfying parts of my job.”

One of his best saves comes by way of one of his favorite patients, “Rev. Smith.” “He brought in his prescription Ray-Bans and was so distraught! They were very bent out of shape, lens popped out. He thought nothing could be done,and I have to admit, I was a bit shaky about them. But I’ve never turned away from a challenge to conquer!”

Spoken like a true hero. “Patience and a magical combination of tenderness and pressure with thin metal, I used my powers to bend the frames and put the lens back into the frame in a matter of moments!” says ADJUSTOMAN. “When I handed them to him, he went nuts, going on and on about what a miracle worker I was!

Over the years, people would come in saying, “Rev. Smith told me I had to come see you to get my frames adjusted.” When a Reverend calls someone a miracle worker, it’s a big deal!


ALTER EGO: RICK RICKGAUER
BASE OF OPERATIONS: VISION ASSOCIATES, GIRARD, PA

RICK RICKGAUER earned his superhero identity deep, deep in the trenches. “I’m a freak when it comes to fixing drill mount problems,” he says, “because when I worked at a chain we sold so many pairs that came back for repairs I had to learn how to fix them or drown in complaints.”

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In fact, while working at that retail chain, he literally had to make tools from other tools in order to repair drill mounts. “For example, I had sidecutting pliers covered in transparent tape to remove compression fittings without scratching the lenses; push pins to remove broken prongs; double nylon jaw pliers to compress the fittings,” he says.

Now having been with Vision Associates, a private practice in a small Pennsylvania town, for nearly four years, DRILL FREAK uses his powers for good. “Now that I have the proper tools it almost seems unfair. Once I had this lady come with a broken bridge on a drill mount. She was leaving on vacation, and the only bridge I had was one that didn’t particularly match. It was close enough, but the prongs were slightly bigger than the original drilled holes.” What to do!?!

“I carefully widened the holes without ruining the lenses. It took some time and patience but it was a success and off she went to enjoy a splendid vacation.” Crisis averted!


ALTER EGO: DR. TEXAS L. SMITH
BASE OF OPERATIONS: DR. TEXAS L. SMITH & ASSOCIATES, CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA

“I HAVE MY PATIENTS laughing within two minutes of every exam — this includes men, women and children. I have a joke for almost every situation, and nothing puts a patient at ease quicker than laughter,” says Dr. Texas L. Smith. Truer words were never spoken, and there may be no greater superpower on the planet than giving the gift of laughter.

One of DR. CHUCKLES’ go-to jokes? “I once had a patient that thought she had bromyalgia because she hurt everywhere she touched with her index finger. Turns out she didn’t have bromyalgia … she had a broken index finger.” Now that’s funny stuff.

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One experience stands out above all others for DR. CHUCKLES. “I asked a long-term patient during her case history if she had had any recent medical events or surgeries. She lifted her sweater and said ‘I recently got these.’ As my life, my wife, and my practice all flashed in my mind in an instant, I was composed enough to say ‘My compliments to the surgeon.’ The rest of the exam gave new meaning to ‘Which is better 1 or 2?’” Ba dum bum!


ALTER EGO: VALERIE SMITH
BASE OF OPERATIONS: SMOKE VISION CARE, NEW BUFFALO, MI

VALERIE SMITH of Smoke Vision Care is no regular insurance biller. She’s earned the nickname HONEY BADGER but, unlike her namesake in the wild, it isn’t because she “Don’t care.” With nine years under her belt at Smoke Vision Care, her superhero moniker came about four years ago, thanks to her fierce ability to ensure all claims are completed and reimbursed correctly. She is one of the greatest assets Smoke patients have and she fights for them daily.

Since taking over the billing in Smoke Vision Care’s Buchanan location, she has kept their accounts receivable well managed: Accounts past due over 90 days are rare and average less than 5 percent for the last four years.

In fact, her powers go so far as to find vision insurance for patients who didn’t even realize they had it. Recently, a patient didn’t know she had EyeMed but, upon hearing the news from HONEY BADGER, purchased glasses. Also, when patients with an ASR under a local university’s plan kept repeatedly having their claims screwed up, reducing their material benefits and giving them less to use on glasses and contact lenses, HONEY BADGER went to bat resulting in all the claims being reprocessed in the patients’ favor. Her favorite way to save the day, though, is to read VSP their own manual when they screw up the way they cover services.

However, it should be noted, despite her hardhitting ability to fight for patients, Smoke Vision Care counts her as one of the most understanding leaders they have, calling her “fair, calm in the midst of chaos and someone who rarely makes mistakes.”


ALTER EGO: JEFF GROSEKEMPER
BASE OF OPERATIONS: CASA DE ORO EYECARE, SPRING VALLEY, CA

SUPERHEROES ARE TERRITORIAL, so similar super powers around the country is only natural and we can never have too many miracle workers. “The good Lord has given me the gift of repairing frames and aligning frames that have been tweaked very badly, even run over by cars,” says MIRACULOS, or Jeff Grosekemper to many. “They call me the miracle worker in the office and some patients have even called me that but I’m quick to remind those that the Lord has given me my talent.”

MIRACULOS has been a certified optician for 22 years. The last 16 have been spent at Casa De Oro Eyecare helping the good citizens of Southern California battle their eyeglass woes. Like the story of a women who called the emergency line late one Saturday night when the doc was out of town … “She had just moved into the area up the street from our office and was unpacking. She dropped a box on her glasses and was very distraught. She said she couldn’t see to unpack anymore,” MIRACULOS recalls. “I told her I would come in the next morning, a Sunday, and see what I could do. The frames were bent at the bridge and the temples splayed out badly and unevenly with a screw broken.” Can they be saved?!? Have no fear! “I was able to replace the screw and align the frame. Best of all, she was surprised to hear ‘No charge.’ I made a patient and a friend that day.” Miracle worker, indeed.


ALTER EGO: DR. MICHAEL PENNEY
BASE OF OPERATIONS: DR. MICHAEL PENNEY FAMILY EYE CARE, POPLAR BLUFF, MO

SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHEAST MISSOURI resides THE BOSS MAN. Having opened his practice in 1987, Penney is now the longest practicing optometrist in Poplar Bluff with a staff of the most loyal, long-term employees around. Lorelei, Debbie, Suzanne and Candice collectively have more than 50 years of experience under their belt working for THE BOSS MAN.

THE BOSS MAN’s crew describes his superpowers as “caring, compassion, loving, selfless … the list goes on and on.” Suzanne Pigmon calls Penney the “all-American Superman! He loves our country and does his best to provide care for both his patients and his employees.” Lorelei Morris adds, “It’s rare to find a job that you truly enjoy. Luckily, I have done so, and that’s greatly in part thanks to Dr. Penney. Our office is like a family, with Dr. Penney leading us as the patriarch. He is encouraging, complimentary, motivating, kind, funny, trustworthy, and supportive. He’s one of the hardest working and most generous people I’ve ever met.”

One example of THE BOSS MAN’s heroics particularly stands out to Debbie Padgett, an employee of 24 years. “We had a 90-year-old patient who was a WWII vet,” she says. “In talking with him during his exam, Dr. Penney found out the patient had been in the 4th Armored Division during the war. The patient told Dr. Penney about how each man received a book that detailed the battles they’d been in, kind of like a yearbook. He said that his book had been lost or stolen many, many years ago during the war. Dr. Penney searched and searched until he found an original book, exactly like the one the patient had lost. The next time the patient came in, Dr. Penney presented the book to him. I will never forget the look on the patient’s face when he realized the book Dr. Penney gave him was just like the one he’d lost.”

Ultimately, what makes THE BOSS MAN a superhero is the love and loyalty of his staff but that’s not all, it’s also what he inspires in others. “Although I spend almost every waking moment with this man, he never ceases to amaze me,” says Penney’s wife, Karen. “Being his wife for almost 26 years, and working with him every day in the office, he still remains my hero because of his compassion and generosity for others. I have learned so much and been so inspired by his kindness and desire to be in the service of others.” High praise.


UNDER THE MILD-MANNERED guise of a former forensic accountant lives the soul of a hero. “Give me an upset patient, emotional employee, or feuding staffers … I have the ability to receive their emotional punches and hit back with a calmer and more productive outcome,” says James Armstrong, aka DE-ESCALATO. “With over a dozen staff members, working in under 1,500 square feet of total office space, I usually see at least one set of tears in my office a month.

“The first thing I do is listen, which involves more than you might think: soft eyes, affirming head nods, or anything else I can do to make the employee comfortable so that they keep talking and get everything off their chest. Once unburdened, I usually find myself affirming their story back to them, so they know someone is listening. More often than not, once they have gotten it out in the open and know that management is aware, the problem is solved.”

But DE-ESCALATO’s job doesn’t stop there. “When situations get more elevated, or involve more deeply personal issues, I do my best life coach impersonation. Everything can have a positive spin, and there is no value in focusing on bad news. After reprimanding an employee for breaking a company policy, I make sure to end the conversation talking about what they’re doing right. Regardless of how I feel, my job is to make sure they leave my office happy, motivated and ready to help patients.”

And DE-ESCALATO is ready to start another day fighting for the greater good!


ALTER EGO: REXANNE COLLIER
BASE OF OPERATIONS: TEXAN EYE OPTICAL, AUSTIN, TX

REXANNE COLLIER is a seasoned veteran. She’s been in the optical industry since 1994 and the optical operations coordinator at Texan Eye for eight years overseeing three locations, so it’s no surprise her superpower shines as the last line of defense in tricky situations. THE CLOSER helps her staff with difficult patients and problem-solving.

“When my staff has done their best helping with a difficult situation and the patient is still not satisfied, that’s where I come in,” she says. SWOOP! “By thinking outside the box and looking for a solution from every angle, I excel at problem solving and pride myself on being understanding and sympathetic to the patient’s needs. I can confidently say I have a tremendous ability to reach patients on their level, explain my position and come to an agreement that satisfies them. The patient leaves with a sense of security and the knowledge that we care about their needs.”

Her patients leave appreciative and impressed, when initially, they came in genuinely irritated, THE CLOSER to the rescue!


ALTER EGO: DR. SELINA McGEE
BASE OF OPERATIONS: PRECISION VISION, EDMOND, OK

“WHEN I SET A GOAL, sometimes ones my team thinks are crazy and unreachable, we make the goal,” says Dr. Selina McGee, the day-to-day alter ego of THE VISIONARY. “I set weekly, monthly, yearly and five- and 10-year goals, and thus far in a 14-year career in the eyecare field I have been very blessed to have met all my goals.”

Most recently, THE VISIONARY set a goal for her office to increase gross revenue in 2016 by 25 percent. They grossed $709,962 in 2015, so the new goal was to hit $887,453. “I have found that if you draw yourself a roadmap toward your goal and do it in bite-size pieces it becomes more attainable,” she says. “The roadmap needs to also have a very clear endpoint so everyone on the team knows where we are going, why we are going, and what it looks like when we get there.” So, she took the gross number the practice needed to reach and began to work backwards: How many patients did they need to see per month? Per week? What did their totals need to be each day? What did they need to average per patient?

“Once I had the hard numbers, then I talked to my team and asked myself and them, ‘What do we have right now to attain this? What is missing to achieve what’s possible? What tools do we need to get there?’ For me, when I break down my goals into what I need to do right now it’s not nearly as daunting.”

Of course, it doesn’t stop there, as a superhero is never off duty. “As a team we revisit and reassess monthly, this allows us to not lose momentum and to correct the course if we need to. We ask ourselves, ‘What’s working?’ That one is usually easy. Next, ‘What’s not working?’ and this one is always harder, but when you build your team and trust each other great things can come from those two questions. Real problems get solved.”

The result? Precision Vision hit the 25 percent mark with five months left in the year. POW!


ALTER EGO: DR. CYNTHIA SAYERS
BASE OF OPERATIONS: EYESHOP OPTICAL CENTER, LEWIS CENTER, OH

“MY STAFF TELLS me that I should put a couch in my office because I have a second job as psychiatrist,” those are the words of DR. INSIGHT. “I have an amazing ability to turn any patient, no matter how difficult, into a smiling, happy patient. I have a knack for finding out something we have in common to strike up a conversation to make them more comfortable. I think it is my ability to connect on any level that keeps patients coming back.”

But Dr. Cynthia Sayers of EyeShop Optical Center is not a trained psychiatrist. She comes by her ability to connect naturally. Take the case of a patient she calls Eeyore. “She is in her late 60s with multiple health issues,” explains DR. INSIGHT.

“She came in a wheelchair, with her son pushing her, barking orders! I was a little intimidated at first, but have learned that finding common ground can help break down the walls with these types of patients. I asked her some personal questions and found out the most important thing to her is her French bulldog, Zelda. I too have a French bulldog so we immediately started chatting about our pups.” BINGO! “I had to schedule her back for several visits,” she says. “On all her visits she would ask about my dog. She was always a bit gruff with her son, which is why I coined her my Eeyore. Instead of getting upset she took it as a token of affection. She would call me occasionally to chat and we became buddies. One day, while celebrating our fifth annual Patient Appreciation Day, she called. She was on doctor ordered bed rest and her son couldn’t let Zelda out. She asked if I would. When my staff asked where I was going during the party, I told them I had to help with Zelda. I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy.”

“Eeyore was much appreciative. Moral of the story: you never know what someone is going through and finding common ground can make a loyal patient for life,” says DR. INSIGHT. Spoken like a true superhero. But she offers a word of caution … “Angry patients be warned … you will leave EyeShop in a good mood!”

 

 

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We Asked ECPs Which Famous Names Bought Their Eyewear

And boy did they get to bragging….

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FOOTBALL ICONS, RECLUSIVE troubadours, presidential candidates, Hollywood A-listers, and childhood heroes: We asked our readers to indulge in a little shameless bragging and tell us about some of the famous faces that have propped up their eyewear.

Rick Rickgauer, Vision Associates
Girard, PA

“The day Gene Hackman stopped in I happened to be off,” recalls Rick Rickgauer of the day the bona fide Hollywood legend strolled into a LensCrafters in Tuscon, AZ. (Rickgauer has since moved on to Vision Associates in Girard, PA.) “My lab manager called me to tell me Mr. Hackman was in the store. ‘If I drive all the way down there and you’re lying to me,’ I told him, ‘I’ll $#@* you over good.’ So, I hopped in my car and drove the 30 minutes to work. And there he was, all 6’4” of him in all his star quality. I’ve seen Gene Hackman in more movies than I can count. I don’t know what I expected of him, at the time, but he was the most mild-mannered person. Totally oblivious that he was a major motion picture star.” But it was baseball legend Ken Griffey Sr. that left Rickgauer nearly speechless. “I was a bumbling idiot. In the mid-’70s I was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan when they were known as the Big Red Machine, winning multiple World Series along the way. Ken G was a big cog in that machine. His son, Ken Griffey Jr. was all the rage. One of the best players ever to play the game. I proceeded to tell Ken G that, to me, he was the original Ken Griffey, not his famous son.” In retrospect, Rickgauer wonders if it would’ve been better if he had been speechless. “To this day, I still feel like an idiot for saying that.”

Nancy Revis, Uber Optics
Petaluma, CA

Nancy Revis, owner of Uber Optics in Petaluma, CA, had heard that singer/songwriter, actor, and one of her personal heroes, Tom Waits, a resident of neighboring Occidental, was often spotted in her town. “Why was he not coming into my shop?” she asked herself. “I have the cool eyewear and he has cool taste! Tom Waits always has cool eyewear on!”

Then about seven months ago, Revis and staff members Jess and Elizabeth were having what they thought was a regular workday. “Elizabeth was closing a sale at the computer desk and in walks a woman, a younger woman — her daughter — and Tom Waits! I instantly started sweating. It was actually happening — Tom Waits was walking into my store. Everything seemed to slow down and I started to sweat.” Revis managed to get a greeting out, and “Tom went right over to the sitting area and just chilled out. He was watching me help his wife and giving feedback. Nodding only. He looked so cool. Crazy huge grey curly hair. I offered him water but he declined. He sat there and grabbed a Rolling Stone. I mean… Tom Waits was sitting in my store and reading a Rolling Stone. Jess hadn’t seen that he was in the shop because she was checking in jobs. I walked to the back and all I said was… ‘Oh my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!’ and then walked back out. She came out and her facial expression said, ‘HOLY S**T!’ His wife loved cat eyes and so do I … so, I ended up selling her an Oliver Peoples that I wear… the Marienella in black.”

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Musicians seem drawn to Uber. Revis recalls John McCrea, of the band Cake, as being “so super cool. I asked if he would model for me but he didn’t want to. But, I was so stoked that he bought glasses from me. He was hilarious and sweet.” And she has struck up something of a friendship with actor and pioneering punk rocker John Doe of the band X. “He became my customer the moment I opened because Pat with Moscot was his friend… he sent him a pair of glasses and I was the liaison. He let me take his photo wearing Moscot on a few occasions. Just recently he was in town performing with the Psychedelic Furs and swung in to say hi. He fell in love with a pair of sunglasses and modeled them for me. I told him to let me take his photo wearing the sunglasses that he loved… He sent me a pic of himself in NYC wearing the Moscot sunglasses.”

Other memorable Uber clients include Oscar-winning movie sound designer Chris Boyes, songwriter George Merrill and the actress Jane Levy (and her mom).

William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear
McDonough, GA

As an Army veteran, William Chancellor says it was a personal pleasure to sit down and dispense to Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate from the Atlanta area, who has a history of offering praise and support for the military. (The experience took place at Chancellor’s previous office, DePoe Eye Center, which has several Georgia locations. He is now the practice manager and licensed optician for Eye Can See Eyewear in McDonough.) “Having the pleasure of meeting him in person was a wonderful experience. He was very humble and authentic. Who can’t appreciate his quote, ‘Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.’” Chancellor recalls dispensing Silhouette Eyewear to Cain. “I would listen to his syndicated talk show daily and supported him in his bid for the White House in 2012.”

Julie Uram, Optical Oasis
Jupiter, FL

Jupiter, FL, is home to a disproportionately high population of sports pros. Not surprising, then, that Julie Uram often looks up to find former football players stooping to squeeze through her doors. “Well, it seems as though I have many retired football players or coaches [coming in]: Joe Namath, Ron Wolf and Dan Henning. Funny story about Joe Namath, the other day a customer recognized him and asked if he would speak to his brother on the phone. Joe did and told him when he was in the area they should get together! Then the guy was all excited, and Joe said, ‘Oh, I was really just kidding…’ It was quite a funny moment.”

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Tom Brillante, OD, Decatur Eye Care
Decatur, GA

The Atlanta area now rivals Southern California as a center of the U.S. film industry. So much so that these days you’re as well positioned in the Peach State as on Rodeo Drive for superhero sightings. Ask Dr. Tom Brillante of Decatur Eye Care in Decatur, GA — or at least ask his employees. He spotted Cress Williams of The CW’s Black Lightning. “I didn’t know who he was, but the rest of my staff did. Such a nice guy! For a superhero, I expected him to be a lot more arrogant. Maybe his other super power is humility.” Kevin Bacon and Billy Bob Thornton filmed a part of their indie film Jayne Mansfield’s Car right downstairs in the courtyard. Most recently — and most personally thrilling for unashamed retro-soft rock fan Brillante — was his brush with Peter Olson, one of the lead singers for “the greatest ’70s/’80s cover band of all time — Yacht Rock Revue. Definitely check them out, they tour the country throughout the year and I’ve probably seen them about 10 times now,” Brillante says.

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America's Finest

Want to Know What ‘Start-to-Finish’ Service Really Looks Like?

This Fort Worth, TX practice reinvented itself into a boutique optical with high tech examinations.

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Clear Eye Associates + Optical, Fort Worth, TX

OWNER: David Moore, OD; URL: cleareye.com; FOUNDED: 2007; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Norman Ward Architect, EyeDesigns, and Entirely Interiors; EMPLOYEES: 12 full-time, 1 part-time ; AREA: 11,000 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: ic! berlin, Rolf, Dita, Barton Perreira, Face à Face; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/ClearEyeOptical; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/cleareyeoptical; YELP: yelp.com/biz/clear-eye-associates-optical-fort-worth-2


EXPERIENCE,” SAYS DR. DAVID Moore, “is in the eye of the beholder.” Put another way, each patient has preferences unique to them, whether they care most about time, convenient and upfront pricing, carefully curated and unique frames, or a high-tech examination experience.

‘In today’s market you have to do a little of everything to be competitive,’ says Clear Eye owner Dr. David Moore.

It’s a lesson Moore learned over 10 years in private practice at Clear Eye Associates + Optical in Fort Worth, TX and fully implemented by introducing a new concept in 2017; an optical boutique procuring mostly independent lines. “The idea was the easy part. Overcoming, retraining and rethinking how the current consumer wants to shop has been the challenge. The age-old idea of personalized service, customer experience, and product expertise has become the linchpin for growing the business,” Moore says.

Central to the concept is customer immersion in what Moore refers to as the “CLEAR experience,” from the time they book and select their arrival item — be it a cappuccino, chocolate or craft beer ­— to the personal handwritten “thank you” note and custom cookie that arrive for them in the mail in a special CLEAR box. Staff follow this up with a call a few weeks after the customer has received the product to make sure they are satisfied.

For those who haven’t booked, “We try to impact our patients prior to their appointment so we begin with a tailored check-in experience. Our staff presents a menu, with offerings ranging from chocolate to cappuccino or a seasonal cocktail.”

According to Moore, the store and the service are designed around creating an experience and offering products that appeal to the aficionado. “Our intent is to cater to people that want to feel special, where their time is valued, and their needs are met.”

EyeDesigns and architect Norman Ward were able to create a modern design with Lum lighting that highlights the detail of the frames and allows customers to look their best.

Frames are displayed by brand but in a carefully controlled way. “We want patients to recognize brands from distinct signage that looks like our store, versus our store looking like 20 different brands,” Moore says.

When Moore discusses pricing policy, the value he places on being “upfront” and “transparent” quickly becomes apparent. But he admits that achieving this goal is complicated by the presence of so many different insurance plans with different pricing.

“Our team has done a great job learning the plans and developing methods to more quickly give accurate pricing for customers,” he explains. “For uninsured customers, we have selected products that provide value and state-of-the-art fashion while fitting within their budget. We feel that giving customers lens pricing first then allowing them to select the perfect frame is the most transparent way for customers to purchase spectacles.”

Moore says digital marketing is second only to personal referrals as a driver of growth at Clear Eye. “We do well with Google, Facebook, and are growing our Instagram presence. What we have learned is that in today’s market you have to do a little of everything to be competitive. Photography is key to making everything pop.”

Having an on-site lab is important to Moore because it enables the practice to customize lenses and lens shapes. And quick turnaround is something they pride themselves in. “Our Mr. Orange edger helps us do this,” says Moore. “The edger has been great for us. Although we are a boutique optical, we want to provide the most comprehensive eyecare possible.” The practice prides itself on a full range of equipment as well as top-level dry eye treatment.

This no-stone-unturned approach would seem to be Clear Eye’s signature achievement, whether it’s online, at reception, in the optical or the exam lane. As Moore defines it: “Expertise and personalized service in a modern, clean aesthetic that provides a unique experience for our customers.”

PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Clear Eye Associates + Optical

1. QUICK CLEAN. Clear Eye’s optical features the OpticWash, a device Moore describes as a “car wash for glasses … an ingenious inven­­tion that does a great job of cleaning frames and lenses.”

2. GET THE MESSAGE. Patients are sent a text after their glasses purchase with details on their frames. The text contains links to the product’s brand story so that the customer can learn more about their frames prior to them being completed.

3. SMELL OF SUCCESS. The list of items offered to patients prior to their arrival goes beyond just drinks and sweets; even the music and scent have been selected specifically for customers.

4. NO SURPRISES. Price transparency is one of Clear Eye’s core goals. To ensure this is maintained, the practice makes a point of working up special handouts with pricing information on lens benefits and cost.

5. FULL TREATMENT. Clear Eye takes special pride in its dry eye treatment. “Dry eye impacts our core demographic to such an extent we felt the need to have the technology to solve this problem for our patients,” says Moore.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Interesting color scheme; the natural wood looks great and is a contrast to the whites. Offering craft beer is a great idea too. Mick Kling, OD, Invision Optometry, San Diego, CA
  • The “CLEAR” logo is handled in a very nice way, where it is important to the conversation but does not dominate it. Their dedication to making information accessible to the customer is evident in their materials, and the delivery of a customized cookie and a handwritten note is a charming touch. Brent Zerger, l.a. Eyeworks, Los Angeles, CA
  • Texting a customer cool details on the frame they’ve purchased is CLEARly brilliant and impactful! Their “Seeing Good” campaign is wonderful: they donate generously AND they’ve “branded” it. One of the best URLs I’ve ever seen; simple and in line with their overall brand. Robert Bell, EyeCoach, San Francisco, CA

 

Fine Story

Clear Eye donates 100 frames each month to a local charity clinic as part of its “Seeing Good” campaign. “Although we don’t publicize or market this, we feel that local is important. We are fortunate enough to be able to partner with Community Clinic in Fort Worth, which is run by the University of Houston College of Optometry. They see thousands of patients a year at little to no cost in the First Christian Church downtown. Donating frames is our way of helping the local community.”

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Best of the Best

This California Lens Lab Has an Inspiring Recovery Story

They were burned to the ground in last year’s wildfires. Six months later, they’re thriving.

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SOMETIMES, THE THINGS that make you the best of the best are born of tragic necessity. On Nov. 8, 2018, the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in a century, raged through the Northern California town of Paradise, destroying it entirely. Eighty-six people died in the blaze, which destroyed more than 18,000 structures. Among them was Paradise Lens Lab, which the day before had just celebrated its seventh anniversary.

THE FIRE

“I was headed to work a little before 7am,” recalls owner Gary Bates of that day. “It was a clear day but off to the side, where the sun was coming up over the hill I could see either clouds or smoke around the sun.” After about an hour at work, Bates headed to a lookout point 200 yards away. “The flames … were racing up the hill towards the back of the lab.”

A brief discussion about what they might be able to save was soon abandoned. “The Fire Department was telling people it was time to run.” There were five staff including Bates working that day; all got out, but all lost their homes. A few days later it was confirmed that the building and all its equipment was lost.

The rebuilt Paradise Lens Lab in Chico, CA. ‘It took us about three weeks to get our first edger and start the buildout,’ says owner Gary Bates.

THE REBUILD

That weekend, Bates and wife Tammy’s first thought was to move to Oregon. “But we just decided we had too many people relying on us. We had to give it a shot. That day we were out looking for commercial real estate” in Chico, CA, 15 miles west of Paradise.

Already reeling from the loss of his business, a second shock followed: “I thought I was insured fully, you know, rookie business owner.” Bates’ insurer informed him that on the $400,000 worth of equipment and stock he’d lost, he was covered for just $3,500. Help was at hand, however. Prior to opening Paradise Lens Lab, Bates, who’s been in the optical industry since 1989, had worked at Coburn Technologies. He was able to marshal some contacts there to get some edgers delivered within a matter of weeks. Later, Satisloh came through with a donation of brand new digital equipment. And a group of local doctors he does a lot of work for gave Bates $50,000 to help him start back up. “The generosity and kindness was amazing right after the fire,” he says. Most importantly, Bates’ customer base came through, pledging to stay with him.

Not everyone was so helpful, though. According to Bates, one major industry player “actually tried to poach my business. They went into all my shops, and promised them all this awesome pricing to ‘help them out.’”

Thankfully, things moved fast. “It took us about three weeks to get our first edger and start the buildout.” He was able to take some customers back almost immediately, though some were asked to be a little patient, as he didn’t want to underserve anyone. “Within a month and a half we were able to get them all back and provide excellent service for them all.”

THE POSITIVES

Many in this situation would see it as an insurmountable setback. But the Bateses have been rewarded for their determination. He says that whereas before Paradise Lens relied on conventional surfacing, with the new equipment, they can now process digital freeform lenses. Amazingly, business is actually up about 32 percent from before the fire. “We’ve gotten more customers; people have reached out to us wanting to give us their business.” And while they still live in their travel trailer, because of a post-fire housing shortage, they’re philosophical. “At least we have a travel trailer,” Bates says.

The rebuild at Paradise is now fully finished. “We’ve been complete for about three months now. It took us just a little over three months to build out and get all the equipment, get everybody trained and up to date,” he says.

PHOTO GALLERY (13 Images)

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