By Melissa Arkin
Photographs by Ilona Lieberman
If you “Google” Brooklyn EyeWorks Optical, you will find yourself in an electronic sea of customer reviews. These reviews have been posted on a variety of web sites and there are well over a hundred of them. There is a prevailing tone among them of something deeper than satisfaction, often bordering on elation, mixed with some degree of disbelief of the quality of service. One reviewer writes, “Pros: honesty, unparalleled professionalism, relaxed & charming ambience & so much more. Cons: none whatsoever.” Another: “I had to agree when [owner] Dan said, ‘Isn’t this the most fun you’ve ever had picking out glasses!’” Yet another: “I never write reviews, but I highly recommend this store.” And so on.
For all the praise they’ve been getting on the Internet, owner Dan Maldonado and the staff at Brooklyn EyeWorks must be doing something right. The Park Slope, Brooklyn practice has been in business for three years, establishing long-lasting bonds with their customers for just as long. “We view every customer as a long-term relationship, not as a transaction,” says Maldonado.
Building these relationships often includes some unconventional business strategies that go beyond store hours and sometimes beyond the confines of the store itself. “We offer a few off-beat services for free,” he says. “We personally deliver glasses or contacts to our patients’ homes after hours. We also make house calls with about 100 frames in tow. We take pictures of clients during their frame selection and email them pictures to preview. If you can’t come to us, we’ll go to you. Everyone is extremely busy these days. If I can simplify your life, why not?”
As with any good relationship, Brooklyn EyeWorks makes sure to keep the lines of communication open with customers year-round. “After every sale we personally write each patient a thank you card,” says Maldonado. “Then, instead of sending out recall cards we mail out seasonal cards four times a year. It may sound costly but it really isn’t when you consider that it costs more to get a new patient than to cultivate your existing patient base for repeat business and referrals.”
Since many referrals have been Internet-based word-of-mouth—something that is also evident from the ‘I just had to see what all the buzz was about’-type testimonials—the clientele extends beyond the direct vicinity of the New York neighborhood of Park Slope. “In the beginning, my thoughts were on location, location, location so I set up shop in a high-end neighborhood of Brooklyn,” says Maldonado. “Now 20 percent of our clients are locals and the others are from the surrounding borders.”
From the very beginning Maldonado knew that setting Brooklyn EyeWorks apart from the nearby competition would be the key to his success. “I learned through my market research that this area was swarming with optical shops, with at least 17 in my area,” he says. “So I knew that I had to do things very differently to get market share. There are a lot of great optical shops, but very few exceptional ones, especially when it comes to dealing with the customers after the sale. Zig Ziglar, one of my favorite [noted motivational] speakers would always say, ‘You can have anything in life that you want if you help enough other people get what they want.’ That has been the base of Brooklyn EyeWorks since day one.”
Giving people what they want is what the Park Slope store does best and their wide variety of frames reflects that. Despite the location in the affluent Brooklyn neighborhood, the frame selection doesn’t center around high fashion designer labels. “Although we offer the usual suspects of name brand frames, we generally focus less on name brands and more on style,” explains Maldonado. “Seventy-five percent of our frames are high-end from small distributors in the U.S. and Europe.” An eclectic mix of brands includes Cynthia Rowley, Christian Dior and Kio Yamato.
The online reviewers, a fan base of sorts, seems dazzled with Brooklyn EyeWorks, from the customer service to store design to the frame selection, but the adoration hasn’t interfered with Maldonado’s humility. “We offer a full money back guarantee,” he says. “If we didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it.” But with this location in full swing and plans to open a second in the works, the general consensus is that they are indeed earning it.