IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

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Five years after graduating from the University of Houston College of Optometry in 2007, Kayla Gaddis, OD, decided the time was right to open her own business. She was working at Alexandria Eye and Laser Center in rural Leesville, LA, as a doctor and helped grow the small practice, but she felt the time was right for a move. So, she packed up the car and her family and moved back to her native north Texas. There, she found an old department store sitting empty, which she rehabbed. Six months later Blink Eyecare opened in November 2013.

“I felt like I knew what I wanted to do, so I started looking around,” said Gaddis. “I knew I wanted to either buy an existing practice or start my own from scratch. I had this vision of what it would look like in my head, and I found the perfect location.”

McKinney, TX, about 40 miles north of Dallas, proved to be it. The city has been listed as one of the nation’s fastest-growing ones multiple times over the past decade, and its population is mostly young and affluent. “It’s a rapidly growing region and very educated. I knew it could support a high-end, boutique-like shop,” said Gaddis. “No one else in the area was doing boutique; everything are these rather traditional optometric offices.”

To help get the job done, she hired Barbara Wright Design, a Brentwood, TN-based interior design firm that specializes in optometric offices. Preliminary design work started in early 2013, with the bid and permit plan issued at the end of July. However, planning the layout was a major challenge due to the irregular shape of the space and the many existing features-a fireplace and staircase, chief among them-that had to be incorporated into a functional optometry practice. Gaddis wanted to keep the many unusual features of the space, so Barbara Wright was tasked with working around them.

“Despite the cut-up nature of the space, each area flows gracefully into the next,” said Wright. “Patients can browse around the optical before getting to the waiting area.” After the design phase, work proceeded through the summer, and Blink opened its doors in the fall.

When working with clients such as Gaddis, who has a strong sense of personal style, Wright prefers to act as a consultant as well as a designer. “Dr. Gaddis sent me photos of pieces she liked during shopping expeditions,” said Wright. “I then helped her make the final decision on what would work best.” The end result is a unique, eclectic design that is a haven for patients that want superior eyecare and high-end frames.

Ultimately, though, the eyewear and displays took center stage. Gaddis selected most of the artwork and furniture herself-some of which are vintage pieces repurposed for merchandising. She also worked with a local designer to choose some pieces and purchased a number of items online.

Naturally, Gaddis needed premier frames to stock those shelves. “In the end, you have to sell brands you like and that your customers want,” she said. Right now, that includes brands such as Tiffany, Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo, Persol, MODO, Maui Jim and Toms. But don’t expect to find the same old frames every time you return. Although the store has anywhere from 600 to 700 frames on hand, Gaddis is big on change, and collections are ever-evolving and constantly being swapped out.

On the clinical side, the shop just installed a second optometric line last year, running a suite composed of Marco’s TRS digital refraction system, Optos’ OptoMap and Stereo Optical’s vision screening set-up. They’ve also expended their dry eye offerings to include drops and ointments.

All the hard work has paid off, as the community feedback has been off the charts. “From the moment we opened, the reception has been fantastic,” said Gaddis. “People always ask about the wall colors and say it has a spa-like environment. I believe people like nice things-and that’s what I want to have here. I’m in the office more than at my house, so I want the place I work to be just as nice as my home.”

Anthony Floreno is editor of Vision Care Venture.

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