FRAMED: ‘In it for the long haul’

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By Denis Langlois

Sharyn Webber says she simply loves glasses.

It’s a passion that was sparked in her teenage years after she started choosing her own frames.

By happenstance in the 1970s, she got into the optical industry and says she knew right away that she had found her vocation.

With its ties to the health and technology world, opticianry would always be on the cutting edge of change and benefits to the consumer are subsequently both immediate and rewarding. Its strong alignment to the fashion world keeps optical retail vibrant, stimulating, fastpaced and fun. Mentoring from some amazing people, along with optical courses, honed my technical skills, but, frames were

what intrigued me. Frames as art and design became the passion that fuels me. Here I am, four-plus decades later, and my interest has never waned,” she says.

Recently, the owner of Highland Optical in north Vancouver chatted with Optical Prism Magazine about her business and the future.

Q. Why did you choose to open an optical shop in north Vancouver?

A. Highland Optical opened in this exact location in 1964 by Mr. Edward Spray. He and his son, Grant, ran it, and I joined them in 1988. Ed retired shortly after my arrival, then in the late ’90s Grant left the store, remaining on as my business partner. I was joined then, by my current, fabulous and highly skilled staff: my Francophone lab technician/optician, Thérèse; ophthalmologist/technical assistant Joan, and optician Sharene. Together, we became “The Optigals.” Our store sits in the centre of a small, beloved, very eclectic business district, right in the heart of a residential community near the base of Grouse Mountain.

Q. What do you like about being an independent optical shop?

A. Being completely autonomous allows me to select only the products I deem appropriate for my clients — and for me, that is paramount! Independently produced, handmade/or hand-finished, beautifully-crafted frames gives us a competitive edge. With our lenses, we can choose from any of the leading lens manufacturers and are not tied to any one lab. This way, we can cherry pick what we think is best for our clients’ specific needs. When we redesigned the store, we took into consideration my personal interests in music, fashion, movies, design and vintage and incorporated them into the look.

Q. What kind of marketing tools do you use?

A. We promote our identity through print advertising in community newspapers and glossy lifestyle magazines. Additionally, we have a blog on our website (highlandoptical.ca) and a Facebook page.

Q. Are there any changes or plans for the future for the store?

A. We love being “Your community optical store” and nothing would make us happier than to continue to wear this mantle indefinitely. We strive to provide great products/great vision/great outcomes/great experiences. After 53 years, we can honestly say, “We are in for the long haul!”

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