Having the right optical can sometimes be the impetus an optometric practice needs to be successful in their community. This has certainly proven true for Dr. Monica Johnsonbaugh, owner of Focus 313 Eyecare in Grosse Pointe, Mich., who focuses on filling a niche in her area with unique eyewear and attentive customer service.
After graduating from Indiana University School of Optometry in 2009 and working for a few group practices, Johnsonbaugh wanted to see if she could make her dream of having her own optometric practice a reality.
She and her husband decided to move back to Michigan because they absolutely loved the community of Grosse Pointe, located about 9 miles northeast of Detroit. Johnsonbaugh described it as an affluent community located on the shore of Lake St. Clair. “It's a beautiful community with tree-lined streets and gorgeous brick homes,” she said.
Although there were optometric practices in the area, Johnsonbaugh said none of them carried unique eyewear, which provided her with an idea to build her own practice that focused on medical optometry and offered independent eyewear lines, with a cool, trendy vibe in line with the revitalization of nearby Detroit.
“I did a lot of research on the area and what the need is," she explained. "I didn’t want to just open up another optical — I wanted to fill a need. (Those in Grosse Pointe) really value high-quality, good products and they're willing to drive to some unique opticals that are about 30 to 40 minutes (away). They are willing to drive that far, but they don't want to.”
After finding the right spot in the downtown shopping area of Grosse Pointe, construction began on the build-out of Focus 313 Eyecare, which opened the first week of April 2016.
Focus 313 Eyecare in Grosse Pointe, Mich.
To find the unique eyewear she wanted to offer in her practice, Johnsonbaugh started out by visiting Vision Expo West 2015 with her husband — who is also her practice manager — to pick out the brands they wanted to offer.
Johnsonbaugh opened her practice offering frames by Cutler and Gross, Etnia Barcelona, Salt, Dita, Mykita, Miraflex and Brooklyn Spectacles, and then later added on Linda Farrow and Matsuda.
For each of the eyewear lines she chose, Johnsonbaugh said it was based on an appreciation of their focus on craftsmanship and the stories behind the products. "I just love telling people the story behind each brand — that really helps sell it (and) it also just captures people," she explained.
Additionally, she made a point of looking for eyewear lines she felt would do well in the Grosse Pointe area. For example, Johnsonbaugh said Mykita has sold very well because it appeals to the car industry engineers that live and work in the area, while those looking for luxury eyewear gravitate toward frames from Dita or Linda Farrow.
"We have something for everyone and also at different price points," she added. "No matter what somebody wants when they walk in the door, we have something that speaks to them."
Johnsonbaugh also spends a lot of time with patients when they are selecting their eyewear. She first prescribes what she believes the patient needs — including type of lenses, sunwear and computer glasses -- and then either she or her husband walks them through the optical's choices to answer questions and present the stories behind each line.
"I feel like that’s just a really good way to capture the patient and allow them to understand our whole branding, our whole philosophy and the framelines' philosophies," she said. "We just make sure that we’re constantly there and help them with that and teach them about each line."
Open wooden shelving in the optical of Focus 313 Eyecare.
To compliment the unique frames she's offering at Focus 313 Eyecare, Johnsonbaugh decided to present them in a different way in her optical.
The practice's optical dominates the main space in the front of her 900-square-foot business, with a focus on a cozy yet modern and fun space. To showcase the frames, Johnsonbaugh had the idea of using open wooden shelving as an alternative to a traditional optical look. "I just wanted it to be fun, unique and fresh and just kind of pick up on that revitalization of Detroit vibe," she explained.
While at a community event, Johnsonbaugh met a couple in Detroit who own a company called Mutual Adoration that made picture frames and other decorative wooden items from reclaimed wood salvaged from destroyed homes in Detroit. After Johnsonbaugh explained to the couple the type of optical shelving she was looking for, they agreed to the project and made it happen.
Additionally, Mutual Adoration created a wood wall with the Focus 313 Eyecare logo laser-etched into the wood to go behind the practice's front desk. "They basically took mine and my husband’s idea of what we wanted and brought it to life for us," Johnsonbaugh said. "And everybody loves it."
Tips & Tricks
For optometrists and opticians who want to find new eyewear lines to add to their practice offerings, Johnsonbaugh suggested using trade shows as a way to find them and try to find brands that do not compete with each other. "I don't want two lines that have the exact same look," she explained.
And for creating a unique looking optical, she said if you have an idea in mind find someone who can make it come to life for you. And if you don't feel that you're design savvy, don't be afraid to find people who can help. "Do something creative and fun, and what’s true to you and your own style," she added.
But most importantly, Johnsonbaugh said you have to be true to your practice's community. "It’s easy to copy a style from someone halfway across the country, but if that doesn’t work in your area and it doesn’t speak to the people in your own community, then it might not be successful," she explained. "Figure out what’s needed in your community and just do something that you love to do."
Do you do something unique or different with your optical that you think would make an interesting Optical Talk article? Tell us about it! Email Corrie Pelc, OptometryWeb’s content director, at [email protected].