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An Eyecare Landmark

This Milwaukee practice has been tending to the city’s vision needs from a stunning Lake Michigan-side mansion for generations.

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Milwaukee Eye Care, Milwaukee, WI

OWNERS: Drs. Jason Edmonds, Nicholas Frame and Mackenzie Sward; URL:milwaukeeeyecare.com; FOUNDED: 1933; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1947; YEAR LAST RENOVATED: 2017;EMPLOYEES: 53 full-time, 6 part-time; AREA: 2,860 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Alcon, WOOW, Kate Spade, Dolabany, Ray-Ban; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/milwaukeeeyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/milwaukeeeyecare


From left: Milwaukee Eye Care owners and ophthalmologists Drs. Nicholas Frame, Mackenzie Sward and Jason Edmonds.

From left: Milwaukee Eye Care owners and ophthalmologists Drs. Nicholas Frame, Mackenzie Sward and Jason Edmonds.

MILWAUKEE EYE CARE has catered to the vision needs of the city’s residents since the 1930s, and since 1947 from a landmark 19th-century building on Lake Michigan that was once among the lavish residences that formed what was historically known as Milwaukee’s “Gold Coast.”

Situated in the city’s vibrant and diverse East Side neighborhood, Milwaukee Eye Care’s Prospect Office has a clientele to match. With patients from all ages and walks of life, it tries to take a “something for everyone approach,” according to marketing and business development coordinator Amanda Fisher, offering brand name frames like Tom Ford, Lafont and Oliver Peoples alongside more affordable options.

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The current, fourth generation of ownership took over in the mid-2010s from Dr. Peter Foote, who added three locations during his tenure as sole owner from the late 1980s until 2015, at which point he began gradually divesting the practice to fellow ophthalmologists Drs. Jason Edmonds, Nicholas Frame and Mackenzie Sward. He still owns the building and continues to see patients. Optometrists Drs. Jay Heilmann, David Weis and Michelle Pedersen have all been with the practice for over 15 years.

Few practices can boast the depth of medical expertise on offer at Milwaukee Eye Care, with four MDs, three ODs and an average of about 3,100 patient visits a month across all four locations. Medical services include LASIK surgery, iStent surgery to control glaucoma, laser-assisted cataract surgery and advanced technology lens implants for cataract patients. Milwaukee’s first ophthalmological practice, it has served generations of residents. “For many of our patients, it is the place where they had their first eye exam,” says Fisher.

kid-customer-at-Milwaukee-Eye-Care

The office underwent an extensive remodel in late 2017 — a step that required the team to consider the history of the location and its significance to patients. “Details were chosen to reflect our desire to bring a more modern aesthetic while at the same time preserving the character of this historic building.”

From the outside the practice looks like a stately mansion; inside the first floor is dedicated to clinical operations and optical, with the three upper floors utilized for administrative personnel and testing. Parts of the original 1880s residence remain. “Many of the walls and ceilings are original plaster, which we’ve tried to preserve whenever possible. Our testing room and one of the exam rooms have arched plaster ceilings with beams that are very beautiful and unique. We have also been able to preserve some of the elements of the original floor plan by turning bedrooms into exam lanes or offices,” says Fisher. Many of the windows retain their beautiful leaded glass.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly for a practice with such a strong medical pedigree, word of mouth referrals from patients are Milwaukee Eye Care’s primary form of marketing, but recent years have seen a push to expand the business’ online presence, which is now managed by a small but dedicated team. This has involved using medical reputation management software to increase the practice’s review presence and the adoption of the Solution Reach platform for emails, patient recall reminders and text notifications. The recently updated website features an optical page as well as online contact lens ordering, self-tests and communication forms. “We try to focus both internally and externally with our marketing by using print assets in the office, and e-mail communications and drip campaigns for optical sales and trunk shows,” says Fisher.

The staff is large but a family feeling is retained. “We love for everyone in the practice to have a voice. We meet as a large group four times a year to team build and go over practice initiatives,” says Fisher. Staff outings and employee appreciation events are held twice a year and the practice offers training programs and pays for COA/COT/ABO certifications.

Milwaukee-Eye-Care-exterior

As it has for most practices, the pandemic upended the way Milwaukee Eye Care does business, forcing it to close its doors to all non-essential visits for nearly two months; visits are still not back to 100 percent of pre-COVID levels. According to Fisher, a number of changes are likely here to stay, including a largely contactless check-in process via website forms, and greater use of pre-education for surgical services. Additionally, a few appointment-only spots will continue to be reserved, “as both opticians and patients seem to like the option of having an appointment time when necessary.”

PHOTO GALLERY (33 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Milwaukee Eye Care

1. SEE BETTER. All optical patients get a lens cleaning kit with a branded microfiber cloth and spray lens cleaner at dispense.

2. COOL CLIPS. Two of the owners did fun videos during the lockdown to promote services; one on eye drops (invisionmag.com/062108), the other on mask fitting (invisionmag.com/062109).

3. GIVING BACK. The practice is a regular donor to Prevent Blindness Wisconsin and a participant in the Young Milwaukee Holiday Gala.

4. FEEL BETTER. All surgical patients get a coffee mug with flowers or chocolates after surgery.

5. HOW’D WE DO? The practice sends out satisfaction surveys after every appointment and responses are reviewed daily. “Taking the feedback seriously helps us correct any cracks in our customer service and encourage employees who are exemplary,” says Fisher.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Appears to be a very tradition rich practice with a proud heritage. Recent updates to web presence, social media and optical design should pay big dividends going forward. Exterior design is very unique, being located in an old stately mansion on Lake Michigan. — Lance Anderson, OD, Professional Eye Care Associates of America (PECAA), Portland, OR
  • The remodel created a much more light, open and airy feel to the space! — Jan Ennis, Ennco Display Group, Redmond, WA

 

Fine Story 

Milwaukee Eye Care has introduced “Practice Bucks” to its all-staff meetings. Each staff member gets $30 a quarter (20 x $1 and 2 x $5) to give to fellow staff members in any department as a “thank you” for a job well done, helping out, going above and beyond, patient satisfaction — whatever the case may be. These Practice Bucks get redeemed for cash before the end of the year, and you cannot issue them to yourself. “We hope this helps foster even more team spirit during these challenging times,” says Fisher.

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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