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Tradewinds Eye Care Optical, Davidson, NC

OWNER: Kendra Hatfield, OD; URL: tradewindseyecare.com; FOUNDED: 2013; Opened featured location: 2017; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Schaeffer Design Associates, Adams + Associates Architecture,
Kayak Construction; EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time, 1 part-time; AREA: 2,550 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: SALT., STATE, Poets Eyewear, Shwood, Lowercase; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/tradewindseyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/tradewindseye; BUILDOUT COST: $375,000


A DECADE AGO, “OVER a glass of wine and with a clear vision,” Dr. Kendra Hatfield’s concept for Tradewinds Eye Care Optical came together, kicking off five years of planning that would lead to the 2017 opening of her elegant, meticulously designed optometric practice and eyewear boutique in Davidson, NC, a lakeside community in Charlotte’s northern reaches.

Home to a college and some 12,000 residents, Davidson offers beautiful landscapes, great restaurants and a small-town feel characterized by independent businesses rather than big box corporations. Says Hatfield, “There is a festival for everything and the lawnside seating for the summer concerts draws people from all over the Charlotte area,” adding that while Tradewinds draws patients from many locations, the team’s focus remains the local community.

The business strives for simplicity in the patient experience, as seen in its highly streamlined online booking feature, paperless check-in and Hatfield’s decision as the doctor to work with the patient in both the pretest and exam room, which heightens the concierge-like atmosphere and, along with Tradewinds’ state-of-the-art technology, puts patients at ease, she says.

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Kendra Hatfield, OD

Kendra Hatfield, OD

Leaving nothing to chance, Hatfield spent many weekends using an entire roll of yellow tracing paper to overlay different designs on top of the space in order to create the most elegant and efficient patient experience possible, resulting in an office that has two entrances at opposite ends of an extended, rectangular optical. The final design welcomes the patient with an uncluttered, open-air feel. “We chose a local carpenter to build white wood cabinetry for a fresh, bright look as soon as you enter. The idea was to make the frames the star of the show. The seating is limited, encouraging patients to walk around. We typically guide them through each section and try to educate them.”

The pretesting room is encased in floor-to-ceiling glass, and high-quality LED lighting is used throughout the optical. “We wanted customers to be able to see the true colors of every frame,” says Hatfield. She shouts out Wells Fargo, in particular Darren Jackson, VP of Business Development, for helping make Tradewinds a reality. “Darren is specifically optometry focused and understands our business.”

From day one, Tradewinds has been selective about its vendors, prioritizing those that not only offer great product, but also “support the practice in order for us to deliver on our promises to patients.” Among those meeting this high bar are SALT., Silhouette and Maui Jim. The team loves to customize lens shapes and sizes in a drill-mount frame with the practice’s in-house edger. After struggling to find a lab that met their standards, Tradewinds made the switch to Cherry Optical Lab in Green Bay, WI, in 2019.

eye exam room

COVID-19 brought a number of enduring changes to Tradewinds, including moving from a server-based to a cloud-based EHR, Eye Cloud Pro, and shortening their hours, which in turn “helped us develop more patience and thorough explanations on almost all topics as we extended the length of a patient time slot. It also reduced our stress so we kept it!” They rely on a combination of outbound and inbound marketing strategies in addition to social media. “We work with a friend and writer to compose our blogs [which] correlate with our marketing plan every week. We like to keep it fresh and light,” says Hatfield.

The centerpiece of Tradewinds’ small but growing digital presence is its website, built on Shopify early on because they knew they would offer products eventually. Today they sell eyewear all over the world. “Many brands we carry don’t let you sell online… But what we offer is a glimpse of what we carry in our office,” Hatfield says. While online sales currently account for a small portion of overall business, the e-store receives a large amount of traffic and the team has found that patients are booking appointments after browsing.

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Such is Hatfield’s eagerness to stress the importance of her team that she rarely utters the word “I” when discussing her business. Her “superstars” include her “Northstar and office manager” Sarah Sticco — “She is as amazing as they come” — and Angie Stinson, whose background in retail/customer service and unique fashion sense patients really appreciate. The team gather for a routine post-week review — “mostly wine” — on Friday afternoons.

“The success of Tradewinds has definitely been a team effort,” stresses Hatfield. “So many people are responsible for where we are today, including my wonderful staff, vendors, contractors, family, and the list goes on.” Mostly, she says, the team wants everyone leaving with a smile and feeling better about themselves. “Kindness is contagious.”

Tradewinds Eye Care Optical owner Dr. Kendra Hatfield, center, with Optical Associate Angie Stinson, left, and Office Manager Sarah Sticco, right.

Five Cool Things About Tradewinds Eye Care Optical

1. OLD SCHOOL. Tradewinds sends thank you cards to patients and Disney-themed LovePops to the kiddos “to keep a little of that classic handwritten magic from older generations in our practice.”

2. SWEET TOUCH. The practice also sends boxes of luxury Twenty Degrees Chocolates to patients throughout the year.

3. STREET SCENE. Every fall the office looks forward to the Taste of Davidson, a town-sponsored street festival that happens right outside its doors. “We have music, hors d’oeuvres, and the optical is lit up for any passersby that are in the mood to shop.”

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4. WORTH THEIR SALT. Tradewinds is a SALT. Optics flagship store with over 130 SALT. frames in almost every colorway.

5. ANIMAL LOVERS. Dr. Hatfield’s Siberian Husky, Aspen, is a favorite visitor in the office.

PHOTO GALLERY (22 IMAGES)

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In designing the office, Hatfield and her team paid attention to the details, starting with the lighting. “Each of our shelves is backlit with LED strips and the center pathway has a long chain of 27-ft LED dropdowns offering 85% light reflected down and 15% up. All of our lights are rated at CRI 90+, which lets customers visibly see the true colors of frames.” Additionally, every wall and even the ceilings are highly insulated from each other and the office above. “The amount of noise-deadening materials in the walls and ceilings would probably surprise many. I didn’t want to hear echoes or outside noise as I was performing an exam, leading to a much more pleasurable experience.” Hatfield credits Shaffer Architecture and Kayak Construction for standing the business up, on time and within budget. “I am still grateful to this day!”

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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