|Bevel frames have a superior quality and clean, high-tech lines that give the collection an edgy look (Christine shown here).|
|Anne et Valentin offers patients a collection that is very avant-garde in its styles, colors, and shapes (Tahoma shown here).|
|EDGING IN-HOUSE Michael Stoff knows the lens aspect of eyewear is as important as the perfect fitting frame. For this reason, he edges all lenses in-house, working with the latest in digital free-form progressive lenses. Each Rx is analyzed and matched to the perfect progressive, material, and coatings. Single vision lenses also have to meet all of his high standards. Keeping up-to-date on lab equipment is paramount to Stoff. “If you don’t have the correct bevel on the edge of a lens, the whole job is ruined. My edger is a vital part of maintaining quality,” says Stoff. For over 20 years, the Stoffs have made sure that their lab is as state-of-the-art as you can get without being a big box lab.|
|OGA’s Limited Edition Trad combines aesthetic appeal with mechanical function.|
|Silhouette’s Titan New Wave offers titanium construction and invisible technology.|
Consider adding some eyewear-only brands to add some ‘wow’ to your frame boards.
Owning your own optical practice allows you to have a lot of freedom in your frame selections. You are able to determine retail pricing, manufacturers, styles to offer, and so much more. Right now, most optical shops offer a high percentage of designer- and consumer-branded products, but what if you want to go outside the box and carry only “house brands” (eyewear-only brands), staying away from the “big box” manufacturers? Michael Stoff, LDO, and his wife, Paula Stoff, who own Eye Shoppe on Seventh located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NYC, are doing just that.
Stoff opened the shop in 1991 with just 200+ sq.ft. Two years later, he chose to only sell house brands. “I wanted to be different and trendy. This is an artsy community and we saw the potential of what separating ourselves from every other optical shop around us could be,” says Stoff. To differentiate his store from others in the neighborhood, Stoff decided that having product that could only be found at his practice gave him an “eye” (as opposed to a leg) up on other optical shops.
Of course, this was an easy decision to come to as no one else was even thinking of this approach back in 1993. “When you offer a product that is exclusive to your practice, word gets around very quickly. My patient base continues to grow; I have been profitable from the start. I don’t take any third-party plans so I need to give my patients something that no one else has,” Stoff explains.
Keeping frame choices to lines that have unique styles, colors, and shapes adds a look to Eye Shoppe on Seventh that makes it very easy for patients to want to go “out of network” for their eyewear. It also makes Stoff’s practice a fun place to browse and try on new styles. (The only exceptions he makes to this are Luxottica’s new Ray-Ban‘ wayfarers and large metal sunglasses [“you have to have Ray-Bans”], and Persol, thus keeping his brands very limited.)
STICKING TO BASICS
We all have favorite lines that we carry in our practices; after all, we can’t sell what we don’t like. Anne et Valentin has been a staple for Stoff and his staff for years. “I was one of the first in the U.S. to carry this line. It is very avant-garde in its styles, colors, and shapes. The company was the first to start putting a different color on the inside of a metal frame to create the two-toned look. Another favorite is Bevel. The frames have a superior quality and clean, high-tech lines that give the line an edgy look; the owner of the company will do whatever it takes,” notes Stoff.
The Stoffs are very particular when they choose a frame line for their practice. Each manufacturer must meet certain requirements, including excellent quality control, and, of course, have great sales representatives. To make sure that no frame line overpowers another, Stoff chooses his manufacturers carefully. You won’t find more than 20 frame companies in the store and each line complements the others. Other than Ray-Ban and Persol, all of the collections are exclusive to Eye Shoppe on Seventh, with a good mixture of mid-priced frames to high-end custom pieces.
GETTING AWAY FROM BRANDS
Stoff tells patients who say that they just have to “have” the designer name on their frames: “Eyewear manufacturers that have a love and passion for quality are the true designers; we have high standards in all of the frames that we carry. Quality, style, color, and shape-these are what we sell,” he states.
One look at the practice’s website (eyeshoppe7.com) and you can tell that every aspect of his practice is top notch. On the second page, nine frame manufacturers are listed along with links to their websites. This allows visitors to browse frames at any time. Along with frame manufacturers, all of the special services Stoff offers are listed. In addition to eyewear, eye exams in a state-of-the-art refracting lane are available.
The Eye Shoppe on Seventh has grown over the years and now has 1,200 sq. ft. and a lot more board space. Paula Stoff says that “people come from all over just to see Michael and get his expertise.” This is a practice that has not only survived, but flourished by going against the grain, working with small frame manufacturers that bring a unique look to their shop. She adds that she brings her own flair to the business-the woman’s touch.
For 23 years, the Stoffs have been successfully rocking the “traditional” look of an eyewear boutique and created a haven for patients who want exciting and trendy looks. Stoff sums it up: “When you get to know the owners of the companies that you work with and become friends with them, you will never be just an account number. You are as important to their success as they are to yours and you become partners. That is what we want.” He makes sure that each and every manufacturer becomes a part of his extended family.
So the next time you see a unique frame without a designer name or consumer brand name, look again, it just might work in your practice too. Don’t be afraid of trying a new look and manufacturer for your practice and walk the path less traveled. Consider trying that frame company that’s a little “out there” for your area and doesn’t have a brand name that’s nationally known. Go ahead, take a step out of the box and add some “wow” to your frame boards and reap the rewards. Just like Stoff does.
Kat Leek-Tedeschi is the owner of Kat’s Eyes Optical on Phoenix, AZ.
|WHERE TO FIND IT:
|Anne et Valentin
|Silhouette Optical, Ltd.