Retail Strategies: Retail Design


An Oracle Design Quest

A fortunate search for the perfect optical retail design

By Kristen Spina
When Joe Schwallie, OD, moved his practice and dispensary into a new location, he was faced with an interesting design question. Did he want the space to look like a retail store or a doctor’s office?

No doubt countless ODs find themselves in a similar quandary. Whether setting up shop for the first time, relocating or renovating, the question remains: Is it a retail store that focuses on frame selection or is it a doctor’s office that focuses on patient care?

The answer is not always easy to come by. Most private practice dispensaries try to blend a bit of both with varying levels of success. But for Dr. Joe—as he likes his patients to call him—the answer to the question was easy, the execution of the design was more of a challenge.

“We have a retail presence in our location and frame selection, but it is important for me to be a doctor first,” he explains. “I don’t want the perception among my patients to be that I’m only interested in selling frames.”

Oracle Vision Care

Practice is 25 years old;
six years with current
owner; three months
in current location

Holland, Ohio






20/20 TAKE
Blending the best of both
worlds gives Oracle a design
for the future.

Joe Schwallie, OD (above)—known
as Dr. Joe to his patients—recently redesigned his dispensary, Oracle Vision Care, with the help of Fashion Optical. His Holland, Ohio practice conveys the duel message of good patient care and a good selection of eyewear.

Photos by Jeremy Wadsworth

But sell frames, he must. With 2,100 square feet and a high-profile location inside a recently completed strip mall in a Toledo, Ohio suburb, Dr. Joe settled on a floorplan that allocated about one-third of the total square footage to the dispensary. The balance was left to a reception area, lab, contact lens room and exam rooms. The space is a luxury for Dr. Joe and his small staff of one part-time and four full-time employees. “The old location was hidden in a strip mall that had seen its heyday,” he says. “The interior was small, dated and kind of cold looking. I wanted something warmer and more inviting in the new place.”

Working with Fashion Optical, Dr. Joe mapped out an interior that fosters both frame sales and patient care. The dispensary is light, airy and open. Nearly 1,000 frames are displayed in traditional cabinetry that incorporates natural maple wood trim with a portico marble Formica laminate. “I’m pretty good at getting out of the way,” he says. “Once I decided on a direction, the team at Fashion Optical gave me great options and I gave them free rein.” The end result: “The dispensary has a retail look and feel to it, but I think it’s even nicer than that. It turned out beautifully.”

According to Lori Estrada, designer for Fashion Optical, the project took about six months to complete. “We came up with a preliminary plan and once that was resolved, we designed the furniture. The space itself dictates the flow.” Estrada and her team guided Dr. Joe into using colors and furnishings that would help open up the space visually and make the most of the natural light coming in through the front windows—all the while keeping to a clean and uncluttered presentation. In addition to frameboard displays, the dispensary includes small glass showcases that enhance each dispensing table and tall glass curio cabinets where special merchandise can be highlighted.

Though he has only been in the new location a little over three months, Dr. Joe has no regrets about his investment. “I ended up putting a lot into this,” he says. “In fact, when I realized what the pricetag was going to be, I hedged. But I have to credit my wife. She reminded me that this is a change for the long term, it reflects who I am and what I want my practice to be. She told me to do it the right way and make it the best it could be.”

With gross sales in the neighborhood of $475,000, Dr. Joe sees approximately 50 patients a week. “Our patients really like it. They give us a lot of compliments—I tell them it’s all for them.”