By Denis Langlois
A company that traces its roots to a modest optical shop in Montreal is now a five-location company that has earned the title of the Ottawa region’s longest-running independently owned and operated optical business.
The genesis of Capital Optical dates back to the early 1950s when German immigrant Konstantin Grieb opened an optical store on Montreal’s St. Laurent Blvd.
Konstantin’s son Alex followed in his father’s footsteps decades later, becoming a licenced optician in 1981.
Four years later, Capital Optical was founded by Alex in Ottawa.
Just like Alex did in the ‘80s, his eldest son Greg has also journeyed down the path blazed by his father. Greg is now a third-generation optician who has taken over the family business.
Alex is now in semi-retirement.
Capital Optical has four locations in Ottawa and one in nearby Carleton Place. The fifth shop opened in July 2016 in Kanata.
Both Alex and Greg say they are fiercely proud of maintaining their independence in a sector which has undergone considerable consolidation over the past decade.
“Remaining independent brings substantial benefits to consumers,” says Alex. “We have a much better selection of products and because of our close connection with our customers, we know what they are looking for.”
Recently, we spoke with Alex Grieb about Capital Optical.
Q. What are the benefits of being an independent business?
A. Being a locally owned and operated practice means we can deliver more cutting-edge fashion for frames and definitely the latest in lens technologies. This also means we can host special events like our Trunk Shows and brand launches, which our staff loves to do, and our clientele loves to be a part of. The energy from these events brings the fun back into what we do on a daily basis which is part of how we distinguish ourselves from the rest of the chains.
We like to think we have a better understanding of what our clients are looking for. We can introduce the latest in our industry, quicker than the large chains do. Since we believe in service, we’ve had onsite edging labs in most locations as well as eye exams by doctors. We can compete with the “One-Hour Glasses” down the hall. Generally, we deliver quicker than the chains because of the local lab affiliation. This reduces delays from purchasing lenses from out-of-town sources.
Q. What are the primary brand names your store features? What are your most popular styles?
A. We carry many brand-name collections from Safilo and Marcolin. We find they are more responsive to independents.
We have a tendency to bring in lesser-known boutique designers too, with a great selection of frames from France, Germany, Japan and Italy. We enjoy attending the international conventions in search of quality and the latest fashions.
Q. What kind of marketing tools do you use?
A. Since I’m more “old school” than my son Greg and his generation, they have improved how efficient our marketing is by using e-mails, Facebook, Google ads and now Instagram. Gone are the traditional methods of newspaper and Yellow Page ads.
He and his business partner will continue to evolve the marketing plan by expanding into new areas of more content-driven advertising.