Snoqualmie Valley Eyecare
North Bend, Wash.
NUMBER OF STORES
AVERAGE SALE OF A COMPLETE EYEWEAR PACKAGE
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES
Two ODs, three front office administrative personnel, two opticians, a technician and optometric student rotation.
High style and attention to service are not just for “big city” shoppers.
A Washington OD brings high style to a rural community
By Jackie Micucci
Optometrist Brian Duvall had a thriving career in medical/ surgical eyecare. He had worked in large medical centers in such cities as San Francisco, Tuscon, Indianapolis and Atlanta before deciding to come home to Washington State in 1998 to head up several laser eye surgery centers in Seattle. Soon the OD was longing to go into private practice, but he wanted to find a location that was ideal not only for an optical practice but also for his family to live. So he and his wife sat down and made a list of where they wanted to settle. Snoqualmie, an area 28 miles east of Seattle set in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, was the top choice for both of them.
“I wasn’t enjoying practice as much as I used to,” explains Dr. Duvall. “In 2001, I decided to make a switch and go into private practice. There was a practice in [nearby] North Bend. I approached the other doc and joined him as an associate. Six months later I bought his practice.”
In 2002, he bought a second location right in Snoqualmie. “Snoqualmie is a great place,” says the OD. “We chose to settle here for its beauty, the pace of life, its central location to skiing (20 minutes), the city of Seattle (30 minutes away) and the ocean.”
Snoqualmie is considered a “semi-rural” area, however Dr. Duvall wanted to offer his patients something innovative in the way of product and care. “Just because we’re in a small location with a small population doesn’t mean you’re going to receive less than the most modern care,” he explains. “You need to know your folks. Most people work in Seattle or Bellevue so they have different expectations.”
Clearly attuned to his instincts, Dr. Duvall’s patient base has been very receptive to the high-end eyewear the dispensaries carry including such brands as Lafont, Sama, Italee 2.5, Modo, Anne et Valentin and Silhouette’s Titanium Minimal Art collection. Calvin Klein and Marchon’s Flexon are also staples. About 44 percent of all lenses sold have anti-reflective coating. Trivex is the lens material of choice. And the practice sends the majority of its lens work to a Hoya lab.
Dr. Duvall admits to facing some challenges when he made the switch from a purely medical focus to one that now includes the selling of cutting-edge frames. “The biggest challenge was having to learn the ins and outs of the retail optical world,” he says. “For me I think the biggest thing to overcome was understanding and learning product. I knew I could practice clinical eyecare. What I didn’t know was how to define your niche. How do you develop a high-end, high service-oriented practice without being exclusionary? The myth is people in a rural environment won’t support a high-end type of practice.”
The clinical challenges themselves have also been an adjustment, albeit a positive one. “I went from seeing 40 to 50 patients to now maybe seeing 30,” says Dr. Duvall. “I’m able to establish a relationship with customers. There is more of a sense of community.” While the North Bend location was his first family practice, Dr. Duvall was able to really make his mark with the Snoqualmie location, which he built from scratch. “My goal was to create something unique but at the same time did not lose its function as a medical clinic,” he says. “We used different products for the design such as wheat board. We also have a clear wall that is all polycarbonate.”
The clinic, which is 1,400 square feet, utilizes its 24 foot high ceilings to give more of an illusion of space. “We used a Snellen graphic to draw attention up,” adds Dr. Duvall. “For a relatively small place, it feels much larger. We used a lot of glass and mirror.” The Snoqualmie clinic also incorporates art work throughout the space. The practice works with the Seattle Art Museum and local artisans to rotate the art showcased. While the two locations are roughly nine miles apart from each other, they do cater to different clientele. The Snoqualmie clinic has a younger demographic and serves more children. It also fills more single-vision prescriptions. The North Bend clinic has a larger geriatric patient base and tends to be more conservative in frame taste.
Contact lenses are a significant portion of the clinics’ business. “With contact lens fitting we make our niche by being very up-to-date and familiar with the latest products,” says the optometrist. All in all, Dr. Duvall is happy with his decision to settle his practice and family in Snoqualmie. “This is where I’ve found the real joy of practice,” he says. “In a high-volume medical atmosphere you treat patients and you don’t see them again. Now I’m more likely to see them at the supermarket or my child’s soccer game. You need to stand behind what you’re selling. There are joys and sometimes frustrations that come with that relationship. But the good outweighs any difficulties.”