By Denis Langlois
Philippe Rochette’s mission is to make eyewear affordable for everyone, including people on social assistance and seniors on fixed incomes.
“Vision is not a luxury, just like healthy food and warm clothing for the winter,” says the Montreal-based licenced optician, who is also known as Le Bonhomme à Lunettes (The Glasses Guy).
Rochette’s business teams up with community organizations and social service agencies in the greater Montreal area to offer frames and prescription lenses at an affordable price to the less fortunate.
He travels to many locations in Quebec to see clients, including homeless shelters, community centres and food banks.
His business offers a deal to welfare recipients that allows them to buy a pair of prescription glasses for just $20 on top of the amount covered by social assistance.
“I don’t consider it philanthropy. To me, it’s common sense because people need to see,” he says.
Many of Rochette’s clients are able to afford the full prices for his glasses. In those cases, his business donates $10 for each pair of glasses sold to a community organization of the client’s choice.
They get to pick a recipient from a list of nearly 90 organizations, which includes YMCAs and Doctors Without Borders.
Rochette became a licenced optician after graduating in 1998 from the vision techniques program at Collège Edouard Montpetit in Longueuil, Quebec.
After graduation, he worked at an upscale optical shop in Montreal.
He opened his own part-time business in 2007 and, four years ago, founded Les Portes Orange (The Orange Doors). The organization is a collection of health care professionals – from massage therapists to social workers – who offer quality, accessible services to the community at affordable rates.
Rochette’s business now includes 23 employees who visit clients at dozens of locations in the greater Montreal area.
He said he is able to keep the price of his glasses low by not advertising, operating his business from a small office and purchasing frames in bulk.
“We provide an excellent service, which ensures word of mouth is our best advertising,” he says.
So far, Rochette and his opticians have donated about half a million dollars to charities and other community organizations in the Montreal area.
About $100,000 of those donations were made in 2018 alone.
On top of selling frames and lenses, Rochette’s business also repairs glasses for those in need, including the homeless in Montreal.