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An OD steeped in the medical side of eyecare opened his own business in Phoenix — and quickly fell in love with the eyewear. Now he delivers the best of both.

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Urban Eyecare, Phoenix, AZ

OWNER: Jason Klepfisz, OD; URL: urbaneyecarephx.com; FOUNDED: 2017; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Joe Architect (joearchitect.com); EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time; AREA: 1,250 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: MODO, Etnia Barcelona, Barton Perreria, Harry Larry, Article One; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/UrbanEyeCarePHX; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/urbaneyecarephx; BUILDOUT COST: $275,000


Urban Eyecare owner Jason Klepfisz

Urban Eyecare owner Jason Klepfisz

AFTER A NUMBER of years working in Indian health services, doing a residency in a rural community and practicing in a geriatric setting, Dr. Jason Klepfisz returned to Phoenix — where he had done his doctorate — looking to open his own practice. He spent the better part of the next three years taking notes on all the little aspects of private practice and optical that resonated with him. “I spoke with practice owners, seeing what worked best and what failed. I would stay up late looking through frame designers’ websites and social media accounts, noting those that had a unique and inspiring presence.” This careful preparation bore fruit when the doors to Urban Eyecare opened on a 100-degree-plus day in August 2017 in downtown Phoenix, an underserved neighborhood chosen for exactly that reason.

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To get the word out, Klepfisz hand-delivered letters to about 250 local businesses in the summer heat, and called local businesses asking if he could deliver gift bags to their employees. He put out chalkboards with jokes and sponsored local events. Next, he and his team set out to create a patient experience that works “all five senses, through architecture and environment, music, and even the office scent, to not only make patients feel good but empower their healthcare choices.”

There were early challenges, including losing his optician days before opening, and the difficulty of getting credentialed on insurance panels. The latter proved to be defining for Urban Eyecare: “We pivoted and focused more on our retail experience, working on finding the harmony between a medical practice and optically oriented office. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the materials and craftsmanship as much as I have.”

Klepfisz worked closely with Joe Architect out of Denver, CO, to design a space that is warm and inviting while making use of the large atrium that encompasses the optical. Eschewing a waiting area, the design immerses patients in the showroom and encourages them to explore frames before seeing the doctor. Cold pressed steel was used to shroud the front desk for a stark juxtaposition against the glossy white cabinetry. White marbled quartz and waterfall counters are used throughout and small trinkets are sprinkled about the shelving to add a personal touch. Vinyl flooring, laid in a double chevron pattern, is underpinned with soft rubber to make long days easier on the feet and back.

Patients are offered beverages and snacks as they update their information on iPads and have just enough time to try on a few frames in the optical before being taken back for their exam. If the patient did try on frames, the optician will pull similar frames — along with some out-of-the-box ideas — for them to try on after the exam. “We try to make the experience seamless and fun, with the intent on reducing stress and sticker shock,” Klepfisz says.

Along with pavement-pounding, the pillars of Urban Eyecare’s marketing are targeted digital ads and social media. Ads are aimed at the biggest industries downtown, as well as precise targeted marketing and remarketing through Facebook and Google. With permission, pictures of patients picking up their eyewear are used “as fuel for social media accounts.”

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The website was designed to convey Klepfisz’s views on healthcare while displaying the architecture of the office. Most patient communication, including reminders and recalls, is done through person-to-person texting. “Our online presence funnels into one another, website into social media and vice versa with retargeting ads set for patients who make it to our ‘scheduling’ page without actually scheduling,” he says.

One of the joys of being an owner, says Klepfisz, is the freedom to work with eyewear brands that complement his own goals. Urban Eyecare’s optical offers select independent frames from around the world, prioritizing vendors who are socially conscious and eco-friendly. He has learned to always check out eyewear in person before purchasing, and has shed about half the brands he started with. “While pictures and backstory may be great, the overall quality and feel often times does not match,” he says.

Klepfisz’s background in both hospital-based and medically-orientated private practice has left him “feeling the patient’s pain — often a dizzying blur — just to receive basic eyecare.” He considers Urban Eyecare a tech-driven practice, utilizing the latest innovations to make exams comprehensive and efficient.

Overall it’s been an exhilarating and successful three years for Urban Eyecare. “The days with 16 patients make me feel like the king of the world, while slow days make me feel like tomorrow is never going to come,” he says. Klepfisz’s approach to the practice and business of eyecare can perhaps be summed up in his approach to patient handoff, prior to which he often leads them into the optical to personally educate them on various brands and why he loves and supports them. “We believe that creating, managing, and evolving this patient experience makes for a better and longer lasting relationship between patient and practice,” he says.

PHOTO GALLERY (20 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Urban Eyecare


1. ART OF OPTOMETRY. All art in the store (as well as lens cloth designs and optical trays) is by local Phoenicians. Urban Eyecare even has plans to distribute limited edition prints. “We have also been known to barter art for eyecare within our local artist community.”

2. SWEET DEAL. Each dispense comes with a chocolate. “New glasses are amazing but nothing’s sweeter than chocolate.”

3. FANCY A DROP? Urban Eyecare cross-promotes with a local wine store, Hidden Track Bottleshop: “We’ve got the best wine in town.”

4. POOCH FRIENDLY. Dogs are welcome and provided with organic Bocce treats; a bowl is placed outside to lure unsuspecting owners to the store. “Not to shop,” insists Klepfisz. “We just want to pet their dog!”

5. SPREADING THE WORD. The team takes gift bags to local businesses with lens cleaner, cloths, candy, full-color photo office flyers, and pop-sockets to keep Urban Eyecare’s name and logo fresh in everybody’s minds.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Clean, well-designed website that reflects the modern style and beautiful in-store design. Love the “no-waiting room waiting room” concept encouraging patients to be surrounded by the optical experience. Nathan Troxell, Think About Your Eyes, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Urban Eyecare brings together a welcoming and smartly designed environment with a purposeful, professional eyecare practice. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • Love the unique art in this practice! The chocolate in the handmade dispensing tray says a lot about their attention to detail. Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear,
    Andover, MA
  • It is obvious that creating and providing a positive patient experience is the driving force behind this business. The interior is very well done and seems spacious despite the small square footage and the storefront windows really show off the space. The community outreach is a great idea for generating new patients and getting the word out. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

 

FINE STORY

While a student at Arizona College of Optometry, Klepfisz signed up to work at a referral clinic at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital in Fort Defiance, AZ. While the housing was below standard, the clinic was nothing short of amazing, he says. “A fully integrated clinic smack dab in the middle of a hospital, doing both in- and out-patient care, acute emergencies, call, etc. I went home exhausted daily from all that I was learning. From pediatrics to geriatrics, rare diseases, acute traumas — I couldn’t get enough.” He later did a residency at a clinic in Bethel, AK, during winter rotation, which was a different experience. “It turns out that living a subsistence lifestyle in the tundra leads to healthier individuals. Fortunate for them but unfortunate for me and my education.” The sheer volume of disease just didn’t compare to Fort Defiance, Klepfisz says. The unique experience in Fort Defiance “helped me to become adaptable and work in any situation; from clinic to remote villages with minimal equipment, we made the best of what we had and provided high quality care regardless of location.”

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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