Photographs by Jeff Herron Photography
By Kristen Spina
Palm Beach Eyes
Boynton Beach, Florida
Number of locations 1
Number of employees 7
No guts, no glory.
When Dr. Greg Pientka decided to move his existing optometry practice into a larger space, he chose the former site of a Krispy Kreme doughnut manufacturing facility about a stone’s throw from a LensCrafters store. And he made his move during a time many were calling the worst recession in memory.
And yet, Dr. Pientka will tell you, the timing and location couldn’t have been more ideal.
“Sure, it was a brave move,” he says, “but we believe in what we do. We have a different approach and, thankfully, it’s worked well.”
The space is substantial. Five thousand square feet. Two entrances. Ample parking. A drive-through window for drop-offs and pick-ups. Four exam rooms. State-of-the-art computer systems and equipment. A glass-enclosed sunglass boutique. Children’s playroom. And a 700 square foot dispensary.
Palm Beach Eyes, in Boynton Beach, Fla., really does offer a little something for everyone—and the formula seems to be working. Founded in 1963 in a freestanding building about a mile down the road from its current location, the practice was acquired by Pientka in 1998. A graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry, Pientka did a residency in Florida and ended up sticking around long enough to call the state home. “After my residency, I took a job with a high-volume, low-priced practice in Daytona Beach and while it was a successful practice, it just wasn’t my style. That’s when I was lucky enough to find Palm Beach Eyes.”
Since taking over the business 13 years ago, Pientka says size and dollar volume have tripled—a pattern of growth that the doctor hopes will carry over into the new location. “We’re seeing about 20 percent more patients now,” says Pientka. “In the old place we had a return rate of about 80 percent and our strategy was to keep our existing patients, but not necessarily to grow the base. Here, both are important. My hope is that we will keep growing the practice and bring in others to help because we have the room and the space to do it.”
Transforming a doughnut factory into an efficient optical practice and dispensary was no easy feat. Pientka sketched out his ideal floorplan, then had the building gutted. He worked with a local architect and designer to execute a clean, uncluttered interior. Granite countertops and cherry cabinets mix with earth tones to create a muted, yet vibrant backdrop in the waiting areas and for displays in the dispensary. Enormous windows fill the interior with light, and the overall effect is at once warm and inviting, modern and timeless.
In the 700 square foot dispensary, frames are displayed in freestanding armoires for a hands-on experience. Yet, patients are not left to browse entirely on their own. “We use the traditional hand-off,” says Pientka. “I walk the patient out following the exam and explain to the optician what type of frames are needed. That hand-off is pretty important to our success.”
And while the new location and upscale redesign have clearly made a mark on Pientka’s business over the last year, the truth is, it’s his overall approach that set this practice apart. Pientka sees up to 42 patients a day. “If you call our office for an appointment, the answer is always, ‘Do you want to come in today?’ Because if we can’t get someone in right away, they could just as easily call the next guy on the list, or go to LensCrafters.”
Located at the intersection of I-95 and a major east-west artery, Palm Beach Eyes sits at the entrance to the Boynton Beach redevelopment district about a mile from the intracoastal waterway. The high-profile spot marks the beginning of a revitalized neighborhood.
With a diverse patient mix—from families with young children to seniors—Palm Beach Eyes relies on a unique inventory of frames to keep the dispensary profitable. Styles include those from Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Cazel, Silhouette and Costa Del Mar. Prices vary. The average complete cost of a pair of progressive lenses and frames falls easily within the $600 to $800 range, yet with an inventory of 1,100 ophthalmic frames and 350 sun styles on hand, variety in both style and price point gives this dispensary an edge. “We have five professional golfers who are regular patients, as well as the owners of large companies, but we also see the janitor and seniors on fixed incomes,” says Pientka. “All are equally important to us.”
Managing such diversity is a challenge, but Pientka has learned to delegate responsibility and to take advantage of the talents of his seven full-time employees. “I have a high energy staff ,” he says. “I want my opticians to be in charge of their inventory and I, in turn, give them a lot of credit and a lot of freedom to do what they do best and to keep the styles they desire on the floor.
“In the end, I want my patients coming back for the practice, not just for me,” he says. “I want to grow the business and keep adding value, but I’d love to spend more time with my family—and take more time off for fishing!” ■