“This used to be the eyesore of the village. We now have one of the nicest storefronts in the village.”
It’s true, when you used to walk through Osborne Village, the space at 134 Osborne Street wasn’t exactly visually appealing until Dr. Benji Itzkow acquired the space in early 2015. Major changes were done before Eyes in the Village could open, and optician Sean Sylvestre explains how they decided to go with the open concept office that now exists in the space.
“We did a substantial renovation and opened in June of 2015,” said Sean. “We didn’t want to be your drab, old, dingy medical practice.”
Sean mentions the white walls and white lab coats, and that “medical smell” you often encounter in the traditional optometrists office, and that wasn’t what they were going for.
Sean has said that the recent surge in online shopping has hurt optometry around Canada, as most optometrists use retail sales of glasses to fund the medical side of the business.
Sean met Benji through a mutual friend. When the friend heard that Benji was looking to open his own space, the friend referred him to Sean. The two connected on LinkedIn and a business was born.
Eye on Education
Working as an optician came as a bit of a natural fit for Sean, as it was his father’s profession. After working for him for a few years, Sean challenged and passed the exam to become an optician.
Benji did his undergrad at the University of Winnipeg before going to the prestigious optometry school at the University of Waterloo. While spending time in Ontario and eventually B.C. was rewarding, Benji said the decision to come home was easy.
“I practiced in Vancouver for a year, and just realized that Winnipeg is the place for me. There’s no place like it in Canada. You just can’t recreate ‘Friendly Manitoba’ anywhere else.”
Framing things well
“We do have hipster frames, but we’re not exclusively hipster.” Sean notes that there are many styles available at Eyes in the Village, as they don’t want to cater to just one demographic.
One of the things that both Sean and Benji will stress is that your frame and prescription should suit each other, and that’s something you can’t get with buying online. The inability to try glasses on ordered online means you don’t know if they will suit your eyes, sit well on your face or look good.
“I get to choose what I think is best for the customer,” said Benji. “When you work for someone like Wal-Mart or Pearl vision, you’re just a cog in their machine. We offer products for every income level and lifestyle. Some people can only afford certain things, so we have products for them, and some people want high-end products, and we have products for them as well.”
Eyes in the Village offers the chance for customers to come back eight to ten months after their glasses purchase, and if the prescription is noticeably different, they will make the necessary lens corrections at no cost. This is just one of the ways to ensure customers come back.
“We want to make sure people are happy with they’ve got and they’re seeing well. In our industry, you sell people a pair of glasses and they come back every two or three years when their insurance rolls over they come in and get a new pair. We wanted to interrupt that cycle and have people come back to see us more often, and to ensure that they’re happy and seeing as good as they can be.”
Vision for the future
Eyes in the Village is open Monday to Friday, including Wednesday evenings. Benji notes that hours could change going forward depending on demand, but feels that things are running smoothly for now.
The plan going forward is for a second examining room to get running, which would allow Benji to see more patients. The space also allows for the potential of bringing in another optometrist as well.
“I think as we progress we can bring in another associate, and potential open up another couple of stores,” said Sean. “If you look at our name, Eyes in the Village, our name was designed to allow us to have multiple locations. ‘Hey we’re Eyes in St. James, Eyes in St. Vital’. But we want to make sure that we have our business model solid enough that we can replicate it effectively first.”
Eyes in the Village is located in Osborne Village at 134 Osborne Street. Its open 9-5:30 every weekday but Wednesday, when it’s open 11-7:30. For more info, stop by and see them, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-477-1636