FRAMED: Fashionable eyewear in rural Ontario

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Student optician Cassandra Gostnikov, optometrist Dr. Stephen Morris and optician/owner Brian McGrath at Elmira Eyewear.

By Denis Langlois

Optician Brian McGrath, owner of Elmira Eyewear, says he’s proud to operate an independently owned and operated optical business.

“The benefits of operating as an independent will often present itself in the relationships we cultivate with our customers,” he says.

“The feeling of pride and accomplishment when your customers look to you as a trusted professional they can rely on. The job satisfaction when you created a new customer because you had the tools and expertise to solve a problem that no one else could fix. A casual hello or brief conversation from a customer as you walk down the street.”
It’s those experiences, he says, that also help to “soften the sacrifices” often borne by small business owners.

McGrath graduated from Georgian College’s opticians’ course in 1992 and opened Elmira Eyewear in 1999 after working in chain and big box stores.

A student optician also works at the store and an optometrist sees clients two days a week.
Recently, McGrath chatted with Optical Prism about his business, which is just north of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

Q. What kind of clientele does your store service?
A. I have a very diverse clientele in Elmira. Being a rural community, many of my customers are a mix of farmers as well as business professionals who prefer to live outside of the city. I also service a large Mennonite community located in and around this region.

Q. What are the primary brand names your store features? What are your most popular styles?
A. I carry a broad mix of recognizable brand name products such as RayBan, Oakley, Emporio Armani and Versace. Lightec, OGA and Ted Baker also have a good representation here along with other brands. Many of my customers search out the brand name products since it’s easily researched online and they enjoy the variety and vast style options these large collections can have. Good warranties and quickness to get parts in case of breakage are also always on their minds as farmers tend to be the toughest on eyewear compared to most urbanites.

Q. What kind of marketing tools do you use?
A. I use a variety of marketing tools. Local newspaper ads and mailers have proven effective. Facebook and Twitter have been useful tools and continue to be an easy and cost free way of getting information out. Word-of-mouth in small communities is by far the best type of advertising. You always have to be providing an extremely high level of service since any negative or sub-par reviews will be quickly spread during casual conversations.

Q. Are there any changes or plans for the future for the store?
For the foreseeable future continuing to drive the optometry side of my business, staying relevant, fresh and adaptive to the ever-changing retail market will always be on my weekly planner.

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