Features: Blueprints


Blueprints 2002

Blueprints 2002
Stores and Their Stories
By Jackie Micucci

The Great Divide
When Pacific Northwest Eye-Allenmore Optical outgrew its old location, two of the major goals for the new Tacoma, Wash. site was to meld the dispensary with the clinic and create better patient flow.

“What we were trying to achieve was the integration of the optical dispensary fully with the ophthalmology clinic,” says Ron Robinson, optical manager. “We wanted a better degree of integration of the clinic with the waiting room and better patient flow. At our old location, the optical was physically separate from the ophthalmology practice. It was on another floor.”

But while the practice wanted the dispensary to be apparent to patients when they enter the office, Robinson says they also didn’t want it to be too obtrusive. So Redmond, Wash.-based Ennco Display put up a wall—a lighted display divider to be exact—creating a separation between the waiting room area and the dispensary as well as showcasing frames in a creative and eye-catching environment.

“When a patient comes in they can see the optical but it’s not obvious from where reception is,” explains Robinson. “The check out is separate and on the optical side of the office. Patients are handed off from the clinic to check out. Patients coming out pass through the optical. Traditionally most practices have had the optical off to one side.”

The result is a comfortable setting for patients that is uncluttered, efficient yet attractive and well merchandised.

In addition, Allenmore wanted a more upscale appearance but didn’t want the practice to look like it was spending their patients’ money on frivolity.
“There is a fine art in medical practices today to look neat, clean and professional without looking like your spending the patient’s money on luxury items,” notes Robinson. “Ennco Display achieved that balance. It looks clean and professional but not too ornate.”

A New Attitude

For a brand-new practice achieving the right look as well as the perfect ebb and flow is key. So when Amy Covucci, OD, recently opened her practice, Andover Eye Care in Newton, N.J., she wanted her patients to keep eyewear top of mind in a relaxed and elegant environment.

“We wanted to project a look of simple elegance,” says Katherine Covucci, office manager. “We wanted our patients to come in, feel comfortable and to be able to sit in a way that would allow them to look at most of the display area. We wanted them to feel free to walk around and keep things in mind for after their doctor’s appointment.”

Cy Furman, president and design director of Magic Design in San Francisco did just that when he created a waiting room area that melds with the dispensary. “It has a shop-able feeling to it,” he says. “People like to be entertained. It’s hard for people to sit very long and stare at a wall or magazine. The dispensary area encourages people to walk around and encourages people to browse and pre-select before they get in to see the doctor.”

The display area (as does the entire space) incorporates a light two-tone wood scheme coupled with a touch of green, marble-like stone. “We went with natural wood tones to get that warm feeling,” says Covucci.
Eyewear is showcased in display cases and on simple glass shelving. “We didn’t use any frame bars except for the sunglass area,” notes Furman. “It’s very boutique-ish.”

One of the challenges in designing the practice was integrating many rooms in a small space. The total 1,600 square feet includes not only the dispensary and reception area/waiting room but also two exam rooms, a visual field room, a contact lens fitting room, a business office and a break room.

“It’s a trick of the trade creating a flow,” explains Furman. “I try not to waste space in any place. I use every bit of flow. I try to minimize hallways. This practice has a hallway that’s staggered. Every place you look, everything is important, whether it’s a piece of art or a display.”

All the Right Moves
The time was right for a new look and a new locale for the practice of Robert F. Allen, OD. Having been at its location for almost 20 years, Dr. Allen’s Optometric Eye Care Center had expanded from 1,500 square feet all the way up to 4,500 square feet. But even after major remodeling six years ago, the space still looked dated.
“It wasn’t as effective as it could have been if it was done as a new project” explains Dr. Allen. “Plus the location in the community wasn’t as ideal as it had been. We were looking to move to the side of town where all the growth is. We found an existing building that had been built 15 years ago as a retail space for a clothing store.”

This, the OD notes, was perfect for his Henderson, N.C.-based practice. “It’s located at an exchange on an interstate. When cars come off the interstate and onto the exit ramp their headlights flash on our building,” he says. “On the other side of the exchange is the local hospital. I am at the crossroads between a professional building and retail space. We are visible from within the community. Plus it’s easy to direct people.”

Now that he had the right site, he needed the right design team. Enter Alan Winig of Eye Designs in Collegeville, Pa. and his team who worked hand-in-hand with the OD and his office manager (and wife) Isa Allen. “We had an appointment with Alan and his brother at SECO,” explains Dr. Allen. “Two weeks later he was back in my office with a blueprint for the practice.”
The optometrist took full advantage of Eye Design. “What is somewhat unique is we used them almost as turnkey,” he notes. “We didn’t just buy the optical. We took advantage of all they had to offer.” They even designed the exam rooms. “We bought all new chairs and stands in the exam rooms,” says Dr. Allen. “It is more modern and less massive than typical optical examining room equipment.”
The black and tan color scheme runs throughout the space creating a total look. “They tied everything together—the same colors, same wall coverings,” he says. “Everything has the same look—the trim to the examining room matches the frame room, which matches the waiting room.”

The new office is a true optical illusion. “What is really interesting, because the space is so beautifully laid out, everyone who comes in thinks we have more space than the other location. We are at least 1,000 feet less,” says Dr. Allen. “Our patients are very pleased with the location and what they find when they walk inside.”

Growth Spurt
With five optical locations and nine MDs on board, Eyewear Specialists, the optical company within Edina Eye Physicians and Surgeons, was experiencing growing pains. The remedy: A new location for the Edina, Minn. office that spotlighted the dispensary to incoming patients.
 “What we really wanted to happen, which we didn’t have in our old location, was optical exposure right as patients walked through the front door,” says Howard Malmstedt, optical manager. Now patients are able to see the dispensary when they initially enter into the clinic. “It’s a new space. Any time you have a new space you’re trying to figure out the best flow for patients. The beauty of it was we had an open space to configure anyway we wanted.”

Fashion Optical Displays in Paradise, Calif. was able to maximize the display space while maintaining an open environment with a smooth flow. With a small dispensary space to work with thanks to more windows and fewer walls, Fashion’s designer, Lori Estrada, used both display cases and freestanding displays… no frame boards. “Where we have windows we used freestanding rotators in front of the windows so we could use the space better,” notes Malmstedt.

Although the natural light is incorporated into the design, conventional lighting had to be employed to make up for the lack of sunlight during the afternoon. “The front of the office faces east so we have the sun in the morning but not a whole lot in the afternoon,” says Malmstedt. “We had to use plenty of lights. We used can lights in the ceiling. We did not use fluorescent lights other than in the display cases.” 
Because the practice was anticipating a busier office, the number of dispensing tables increased from three to five. “We didn’t have a specific agenda or goal when we went to set the dispensing counters,” says Malmstedt. “We put them wherever they worked the best. Fashion Optical Displays did a wonderful job of finding the right location for them.”

And the practice’s patients have loved the new look, says Malmstedt. “The reaction we’ve gotten has been good. Some patients refer to it as an ‘eye spa.’ It’s rich looking, homey… a real comfortable atmosphere.”

This Old House
An old house built in the 1900s, with high ceilings and large base boards is where Karen Rummell, OD, set up her Toronto-based practice in 1982. Nestled in the heart of a neighborhood called “The Beaches,” the practice attracts “an eccentric group of residents who are interested in doing shopping in the area,” says Dr. Rummell. 
 By 1998, the practice was booming, but the house needed something more. Dr. Rummell built an extension to create a larger dispensary.
With more room to work with, something had to be done with the displays to make the modern addition part of the home. “Our displays were old fashioned and not very nice,” says Dr. Rummell. “I tried for years to think of something funky to do with the displays, even before the addition. I was resisting like crazy having to call upon one of the design people for the displays.”
But, Concord, Ontario-based Modular Design rose to the challenge of creating a retailing environment to sell upscale, trendy frame styles in this old, well-established community.

Taking inspiration from a large gilded mirror hanging in the dispensary, Modular Design chose gilded picture frames to use around its display panels to create an art gallery effect in the dispensary sure to keep the interest of the artsy, creative clientele. The actual display panels are individual frame boards that allow for easy movement of the frames and have the ability to change the number of frames displayed without looking barren or overcrowded. “The displays work well, are easy to use and versatile,” notes Dr. Rummell. “With Modular’s displays, you don’t have to display too many frames for it to look good, but you can if you need to.” 
Customers have complete access to all the displayed eyewear. There is no museum-like glass encasing over the framed displays. Keeping a similar atmosphere, the dispensary has the same high ceilings, base boards and stained glass as the rest of the house. Delicately lighting the “artwork” are small halogen lamp units that hang down at exactly the same height from a track on the uneven ceiling.

The renovation and design were a success. “Everyone has been uniformly happy about the change,” Dr. Rummell says. “They like that the dispensary is a lot bigger and we maintained the feel of the old house.”

Light It Up
Keith Miller, OD, grew tired of the old frame board displays in the dispensary of his Concord, N.C.-based practice. He wanted something new to update the image of the practice to better show off the eyewear.

“I wanted our dispensary to have a higher end, jewelry store look,” Dr. Miller says. “The look we wanted included glass shelves to display the frames individually or on a set merchandising display, either those provided by vendors or staff made. It makes the frames easier to look at.”
The Miller Eye Care Center also needed something to make the dispensing area stand out from the other parts of the medical building. Dr. Miller felt the correct lighting would do this, while bringing life to the displayed eyewear. The optometrist envisioned display cabinets with individual lighting fixtures on each shelf to show off the eyewear. Woodinville, Wash.-based Bright Dis-play’s Optilight showcases were just the fixture Dr. Miller had in mind.

According to Bright Display’s Sandra Bright, the Optilight showcases give optimum light to the eyewear. Also, the actual displays angle the product at about a book angle, so the customer can see the details of the frames from far away. “The front lip of every shelf has a halogen light that illuminates the frames,” she explains. “But the angle of the eyewear is what really shows off the frames. Customers are able to see the frames from about six feet away, so when they walk into the dispensary they are awe-struck by the product displayed.”

The colors, a dramatic black accented with glass, convey the glamorous appeal of the eyewear. Also, the contrast with the rich burgundy carpet adds a classic feel.
“The color of the cabinets, marble-like black with gold accents, really gives the jewelry store look,” notes Dr. Miller.
But having enough light outside the display cases was also a concern.  Dr. Miller added track lighting fixtures to accent some of the lower displays and brighten up the dispensary.

“Returning customers comment on how we are displaying fewer frames,” says Dr. Miller. “But in actuality we have the same number of frames displayed. The displays allow the customer to see the frames in a different context.”