Features: Successful Retail Strategies

Apr
2008

CABIN FEVER

AN EXPANSION AND REDESIGN BRINGS THE UP-NORTH GREAT



Walking through the front door of North Woods Optics, you could easily think you accidentally stumbled into a log cabin retreat. Perhaps it’s the rocks adorning the reception desk or the waterfalls trickling throughout the store or the trees lining the dispensary. The growling bear in the kids’ play room. Moose, loons, ducks. Not to mention that across the street there is a lake with public access for boaters and plenty of fishing year-round.

While the up-North theme pervading North Woods Optics perfectly matches the scenic town of Forest Lake, Minn., it may seem a tad off-kilter for an optical practice. But for Kevin Bahr, OD, what began as a few existing decorations organically turned into a full-fledged design scheme. “I had gotten these quacking duck fixation targets that I saw in my dentist’s office,” says Dr. Bahr. “I also had a mural of Forest Lake in the play area. These things both got such great feedback from patients that when it came time to design, I thought to myself, ‘What if I just went nuts with the entire office and made it to look like this all over?’”

Dr. Bahr’s impulse to go all out with the design did not translate into going overboard. While planning the new space, which was purchased next to the existing office, North Woods brought in an expert to help style the expanded office. “I had an interior decorator who kept me from getting too carried away. Once you have a theme it’s hard to know where to draw the line. She worked with me on creating the look I wanted while keeping it classy. I just knew from the start I didn’t want any taxidermy in the office.”

Don’t think for a second that Dr. Bahr’s decision to bar real, stuffed animals from the practice means there was a drought in the wildlife department. The dispensary houses a huge, statuesque brass moose that greets customers beside the reception area. And each exam room has an animal theme. “I already had these swimming duck butts that function as fixation targets,” says Dr. Bahr. “These really help kids focus when I’m fitting them for contact lenses. Since they have been so successful, I decided to get more of them—now I have moose, fish and loons, too. I have four exam rooms and each one has the theme of the animal fixation target inside.”

Even with all of this wildlife at North Woods, for kids, the ruler of the North Woods animal kingdom is obvious—the bear in the play room. “We have this large bear in kids’ play area,” notes Dr. Bahr. “When you rub up against its bottom, it growls. Kids love it. The other day, a little boy was having so much fun he began to cry when it was time to leave. We have a lot of families coming in, so it’s important to have a place where children can have fun while they are waiting to get their eye exams.”

With close to 2,000 square feet of space to work with, North Woods Optics had ample room to incorporate not only fauna, but also flora and other nature elements. The rustic, woodsy feel is enhanced with trees inside. (Of course, the trees aren’t real—thankfully, no cumbersome cleanup of fallen leaves come autumn.) River rock and log cabin siding complete the look in the dispensary and the frame displays are worked into the design. “We have picture bay windows that are just the right height for our displays,” explains Dr. Bahr. “The frames we put on display fit right in with the theme. The displays are also filled with rock and lined with log cabin siding.”

Even the frame selection offered at North Woods seems to coordinate with the log elements. “We have a lot of Chrome Hearts frames here,” says office manager Howard Malmstedt. “Many of them have wood temples and fit into this atmosphere perfectly.” Other frames that are big sellers include Kieselstein-Cord, Oakley and Rudy Project. “Over half of our sunwear is polarized,” he adds.

The changes at North Woods Optics have been for the best. “We have gotten only positive feedback,” says Dr. Bahr. “When I first came up with the idea to redesign the practice the way we did, a lot of people said to me, ‘Are you really sure you want to do that?’ But it worked out for the best. We have been here for 20 years and business has never been better.”

 

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