Spectrum Eye Care, Stoney Creek, Ontario
OWNERS: Bita Moeinifar, OD, and Richard Combden, OD; URL:spectrumeye.ca; FOUNDED: 2009; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2020 ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Urban Spaces and Sharon Allen Interiors; EMPLOYEES: 7 full-time, 3 part-time, 1 part-time ; AREA: 2,600 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Masunaga, OVVO, William Morris, Vanni, TopLook, Maui Jim, Tom Ford, Gucci, YSL, ECO, Prodesign, NanoVista, Laura Biagotti; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/SpectrumHamilton; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/spectrum_eye_care; BUILDOUT COST: $900,000
Richard Combden, OD and Bita Moeinifar, OD
IT WAS DURING their 11 years of practicing at non-dispensing mall locations that Drs. Bita Moeinifar and Richard Combden established the Spectrum brand, quickly growing their patient base through word-of-mouth referrals. In 2018, they decided to slowly work towards opening a private practice. “We spent the next two years brushing up on all things optical related since we had been out of touch with this side of the business for so long,” recalls Moeinifar. “We extensively researched frames, edgers, lenses, selling techniques, design aesthetic and everything else under the sun.”
They set April 2020 as the start date for the buildout, only to see their dream become a nightmare when COVID hit in March. Determined to make the best of the 10-week lockdown, they spent “every waking hour — and sometimes dreaming hours — thinking of what we could do to make this new practice as successful as possible.” Spectrum Eye Care finally opened its doors in November 2020 in Stoney Creek, a new development in Hamilton, ON, and home to lots of new families who comprise the bulk of the practice’s 20 to 55-year-old primary demographic.
At Spectrum, you don’t check in at a front desk, there are no receptionists “ignoring you while on the phone” as Moeinifar puts it, and you aren’t overwhelmed by a sea of frames. Instead, patients are greeted by friendly staff to a backdrop of upbeat “chill lounge” music, inhaling the fresh crisp scent in the air as bottled water is served to them while they browse, “although most people ask for cocktails given the look of our space,” jokes Moeinifar, adding that the optical is designed to feel like you are a “million miles from a medical office.”
In fact, the inspiration for the space was a hotel lobby. To achieve this look, they designed a large wooden slat feature wall with gorgeous lighting and floating ceiling clouds. A giant illuminated onyx stone reception bar and numerous plants and trees give the optical “lobby” an organic feel. Nine-foot ceilings and Italian slate tiles lead exam patients to the back office where a central glass hub houses the ancillary testing and contact lens room. The glass walls create an open, airy feel. The U-shaped hallway leading to the exam rooms allows patients to enter/leave from one side and staff and docs — including associate optometrist Dr. Chris Mariella — from the other, preserving the spa-like feel of the space and sparing patients exposure to the office hustle and bustle.
A 10’ x 4’ moss feature wall helps to carry the organic feel into the exam area, where a serene white tea aloe scent is also present, something patients comment is quite calming. All exam rooms are equipped with speakers that softly play relaxing background music. The aim is to keep the experience as easy and stress-free as possible, helped by the use of the newest technology, including Optos, OCT Maestro II and Medmont topographer. All pretest equipment is completely automated.
As the pandemic unfolded, exam time increased to avoid in-office crowding. “At first we were worried this would impact our bottom line; then we realized the extra time with patients provided the opportunity to build greater trust and loyalty and in turn helped us to better sell from the chair,” says Moeinifar. “Due to the increased capture, I don’t think we will go back to our shorter exam time even after the pandemic.”
The practice’s support of local businesses extends to its use of a family-owned lab that utilizes IOT, which accounts for 90 percent of the lens technology they use. They avail themselves of Coopervision’s extensive lens portfolio, which includes OrthoK and Scleral in Canada.
Spectrum mainly carries independent designers and uses them as the basis for conversations with patients about indy brands. ECO, Prodesign, William Morris and Europa are their top sellers.
Everyone gets to shop with a custom leather tray, and is treated to a beautiful presentation at dispense, featuring a glass lens cleaner bottle — which patients are encouraged to return to refill — a velvet-feel dispense card that contains all cleaning/care and warranty info, artist-designed lens cloths and chocolates. Each patient is informed of the name of the artist who designed their particular lens cloth and encouraged to follow them on Instagram.
It’s an approach that in the wrong hands could feel intimidating, but the team at Spectrum have learned to deliver it with a human touch. Says Moeinifar, “Given the boutique look of our space, most people walk in expecting us to be uptight, and are pleasantly surprised to discover the opposite.”
Five Cool Things About Spectrum Eye Care
1. CHAIR WITH A VIEW. The murals of local historic landmarks in Spectrum’s four exam rooms are created by a local photographer, whose info is shared with patients.
2. POP-FREE. The business keeps its brand cohesive, never straying from the look and the black, gold and white palette, which grace everything from business cards and custom leather brand-embossed frame trays to the practice’s Instagram and website.
3. THINK GLOBAL… For every TopLook (Canadian frame line) sold, $5 is donated to an orphanage in Tanzania.
4. …ACT LOCAL. Spectrum’s custom frame trays are made by a local leather shop, as are the black glasses sleeves mailed to VIP patients, monogrammed with their initials.
5. RAVE RESPONSE. Last time we looked, Spectrum had nearly 700 five-star Google reviews from 725 total. “35% of our business comes from reviews. Google analytics shows we rank 1,300 percent better than most optometrists,” says Moeinifar.
PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)
- This office feels clean, neat, nicely displayed and without any distracting POP. — Mark Hinton, eYeFacilitate, Indianapolis, IN
- There are some very visually stimulating architectural elements in this space. The cloud ceiling combined with the latticed vertical work and interesting light fixtures associated with the reception desk are very unique for an optical environment. I was most impressed with the clean and cohesive branding. There is too little individual office branding vs. pushing the “commercial brands” which really don’t promote “you.” — Jan Ennis, Ennco Display Group, Redmond, WA
- Bita and Richard have created a wonderful space in the world that also happens to provide chic frames to their community. Spectrum Eye Care’s outreach in Tanzania is a great example of the optical industry working to make an impact today. — Walter Roth, A&A Optical, Louisville, KY
A year before opening, Moeinifar and Combden hired a company to train staff in optical and sales skills to help boost their knowledge and confidence. The training also instilled the importance of achieving happiness at work and having fun while doing it, says Moeinifar. “We held numerous fun and engaging team-building exercises that helped us all uncover our strengths and opportunities. We grew together as a part of this training and now our staff are not only teammates, but they’re also great friends.”