Features: Successful Retail Strategies

May
2013

MAKING HISTORY

A contemporary practice in Amish country forges its own path



By Breanna Benz

DYNAMIC DISPENSING

WHO
Meier & Moser Associates

LOCATION
Lititz, Pa.

Number of employees
9

Website
meierandmoser.com

20/20 take
Metropolitan cool meets
small town warmth.

Meier & Moser Associates, P.C. shares homeland with Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, America’s first commercial pretzel bakery, and Wilbur Chocolate Company and Candy Americana Museum in Lititz, Pa., a town fondly christened “Lancaster County’s Sweet Spot.” A picture-perfect rural setting of tree-lined streets and friendly greetings, the over 250-year-old town boasts a homespun community speckled with farmers, artists, business owners, and Old Order Amish and Mennonites.

When Stephen P. Meier, Jr., OD, and Leigh A. Moser, OD, were looking for a new space and a fresh start, they found it just a half mile from Lititz’s historic Main Street, in an inviting residential area bustling with foot traffic. “I grew up here, I was an Eagle Scout here, I went to high school here. I know the community well, and it has a lot of things I really like. It’s not very far from Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York City, but it’s still in the country and quiet,” says Meier. The two doctors are well-known in the community; they belong to organizations and have raised their families nearby. “We knew that Lititz was kind of our core,” Meier continues. “It’s where we wanted to be, that’s for sure.”

Brian Stewart, Meier and Moser’s Tura sales rep, was their first and only choice to collaborate with in designing their new practice for their staff of seven, including three opticians. “There was no question, we knew we wanted Brian for the job,” says Meier. “We trusted Brian and knew that he’d be very talented, helpful, reliable and fair.”



Stewart possesses a lifelong passion for optical shop design and a strong heritage in the industry. “We’ve always tried to teach our sales reps to be more than just sales reps; to be a business partner. If I look at my largest accounts with Tura, that’s why they ARE my largest accounts, because I’ve put myself in the position for them to rely on me for things other than just selling them frames once a month,” says Stewart. “My aunt was president and CEO of Tura at one time. She used to re-do offices when she was a sales rep years ago. In my teens I traveled all over the United States with her as she redesigned offices, and that’s how I got involved.”

Catering to many demographics, the spacious first floor shop is wheelchair accessible and allows for an easy, inviting flow of traffic through the dispensing area. “It’s very open and bright, which is nice; we have lots of windows,” says Meier. The abundance of sunlight accents frames on display and highlights details overshadowed in harsh artificial light, which their opticians appreciate.

One intention from the outset of the design process was a purely modern atmosphere—a refined, metropolitan look. The practice was ready and committed to bringing the community and their customers along for the ride. “We just went straight for contemporary. We have an 8 feet wide by 8 feet high mirrored floor-to-ceiling water wall, custom-made, right in the middle of the waiting room. It is the major focal point for the whole office; when you walk in the door it’s the first thing you see. There are a lot of Amish and Mennonite people walking in, and it’s fun to see their expressions because it’s totally not what they expected, but they all love it.”

The renovations required about eight months to complete and the team did not rush to finalize the 3,500-square-foot space. “We were able to do the things that took a little extra time, like hardwood flooring,” says Stewart. Although it was a long process, the trio was happy to put in the hours necessary for outstanding results. “I can’t tell you how many different times I had the walls painted, you never know paint until you put it on the walls,” he says, chuckling. “We wanted it to be perfect before they moved in.”

By shopping around for surplus resources and investing in new material technology, Stewart makes a point to change the standard of thinking when it comes to spending money on remodeling. “I’ve done quite a few offices, about one a year. My biggest thing is saving these guys an absolute fortune for what they need,” says Stewart.

He prefers creating custom dispensing tables, frameboard displays, countertops and even accent artwork when designing an office. “Our dispensing tables were all custom-made, and it saved us a lot—they’re granite, as well as the reception desk,” says Stewart. 
The doctors feel the progressive space allows them the ability to give patients the best service and selection of eyewear. “So far the feedback has been good. We’ve seen a lot of patients who live nearby that we didn’t see before. They watched us grow and have come in anxious to see us and make an appointment. It’s been fruitful,” says Meier.

The team hosted a formal open house when the practice initially opened and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. “I’ve done a lot of open houses over the years through Tura, and I’ve never had people standing in line to make appointments with the doctors,” affirms Stewart. “I think that one of the things that has worked in this location is having a really nice looking optical department and a great selection of frames. It looks good and it looks modern, new and fresh. One woman said to me when she walked in, ‘It’s like going to the spa!’ It is by far the nicest office I’ve done.”

They opted for neutral colors and jet black accent walls, developing and refining the metropolitan flair with accessories and furniture. “We don’t have traditional waiting room furniture, we have overstuffed leather chairs, and it looks more like a living room than a waiting room. We wanted to give it that cozy feel,” explains Stewart. “I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable.”

Setting up their eyewear offerings to allow patients access to every option is also important to Stewart, Meier and Moser. Silhouette, Charmant and lifestyle brands like Banana Republic, Liz Claiborne and Marc Jacobs, and budget-friendly choices are among the patient favorites, with Tura being a top seller with all groups. They’re also looking to add higher end brands to round out their already successful selection. “Show your best first” is a philosophy the office lives by, not only in providing a modern optical sanctuary but treating each customer to perfect-fit frame options and patient care.

Stewart says: “I preach to my accounts day in and day out: Please put in a line that’s more expensive than mine—one of the more cutting-edge designers. Put in something that’s expensive and really high style. You’re probably not going to sell a lot of it here in central Pa., but it will dispel the notion to your patients that they need to go elsewhere to shop for eyewear because if you show them something that’s really different, they feel you have everything. That’s one of the concepts my aunt used to teach at Tura. You have to convince the consumer that you’re their last stop. You can’t just open your doors and hope.”

Although the quaint, colonial town is an affluent mix of artsy, intellectual and old-world rural well within Lancaster County lines, the nation’s oldest Amish settlement, Meier and Moser feel no need to compromise in order to accommodate all. “Everyone who comes in the door says, ‘Wow, this is really nice,’” says Dr. Meier. “It’s been fun and positive as far as the way people have accepted us.”
Now that they’re settling in, the doctors are looking forward to the future, welcoming new customers in through word of mouth advertising organically incited by their growing reputation. They are also strengthening their practice’s outreach online through Facebook and their website.

In their community of contrasts, Meier and Moser are carving their own chapters into the Lititz history books, upholding humble small-town pride, while championing modern luxury and efficiency with an unyielding commitment to patient care.■

 

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