By Victoria Garcia


The Gardens Eye Care

Forest Hills, N.Y.

Number of employees 2


20/20 take
A sincere, heartfelt practice that encompasses a welcoming setting where patients can fulfill all their vision needs.

Strolling through cobblestone streets, smiling at familiar faces and window shopping at local stores, a visitor might think this Forest Hills, N.Y. community is truly a small town in Europe. But make no mistake; despite its European feel, the Forest Hills Gardens is located in the middle of Queens, a borough of New York City. Amidst this neighborhood filled with rich history and a bustling ambiance resides The Gardens Eye Care, an eyecare practice with an incomparable love and dedication for not only its patients, but the surrounding community.

Growing up in Queens, Rita Ellent, O.D., is more than familiar with the Forest Hills atmosphere. After leaving Queens for about 20 years with several impressive accomplishments under her belt, Ellent decided to open The Gardens Eye Care, a dream she has had for quite some time. After graduating from New York University, completing her optometric training at the State University of New York, State College of Optometry, participating in various internships and completing her residency, as well as partaking in several other endeavors, Ellent returned home to make this dream come true. “The practice has been a work in progress for about 20 years,” says Ellent. “It’s been a dream. It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do. It was the perfect timing.” Just recently celebrating their one year anniversary, the Gardens Eye Care was built from the ground up, creating an environment where employees and patients enjoy visiting.

Voted “America’s Top Optometrist” by the Research Council of America for five years, Ellent is well aware of what her patients need for healthy vision and eye health. She is also a diplomat on the American Board of Optometry, a fellow on the American Academy of Optometry and an active member of the New York State Optometric Association and the American Optometric Association. To coincide with all of these titles, Ellent has a strong interest in practicing family optometric care and providing all patients with all vision needs, including a comfortable and exciting atmosphere. “I knew what I wanted,” says Ellent. “I knew what I love when I go to an office setting so it was my dream to create that type of environment where it would just be a welcoming feel. It’s so gratifying.”

The Gardens Eye Care is located in a building with its original architecture and facades that are over 100 years old, similar to most of the architecture in the Forest Hills Gardens. Although the architecture may be similar to its surroundings, what’s inside this building is unlike anything else that the Forest Hills Gardens has to offer. “I’ve been to so many practices in the nearly 20 years that I’ve been practicing,” says Ellent. “And my goal was really to take a private optometric practice, a full-scope vision care practice and make it fresh, dynamic, trendy and cool. Unfortunately, you don’t see that too much.” Ellent goes out of her way to make sure each patient is aware of their needs when it comes to vision care as well as their wants when it comes to selecting eyewear. “My goal was never to work in a place that was rushed. I take my time and often spend up to an hour with my patient, chatting, going over eye pictures and what needs to be done on more of a holistic level to ensure healthy vision for decades to come. It’s a very different approach.” Ellent has created an environment where each patient, new and old, is treated like family. She gives all her patients her undivided attention and is always available for questions and concerns. Although she may see her patients only once or twice a year, it is important for her to catch up and reconnect with them each time they come into the office. “First and foremost as an optometrist, I love having our patients come and trust us with their vision and their eyecare needs. They know that they’re not going to just be rushed through like a factory-style clinic.”

Compared to other vision care practices, The Gardens Eye Care has very limited space. Everything was pre-planned during renovation by Ellent and her team, keeping in mind the need for patient flow for large families, patient needs and space for eyewear displays. Part of this small space includes an exclusive optical boutique of about 600 frames that offers only optical heritage brands, a term 20/20 has dubbed OUR Eyewear. Sticking to the importance of superior and luxury eyewear is something Ellent is very adamant about. “We’ve really stuck with the importance of quality. It was a calculated decision but we don’t carry any fashion name brands here. Our goal is to give patients the best in eyewear, not the best in clothing lines. Clothing designers are not necessarily the best in eyewear manufacturing.”

With limited display space, Ellent did not have the luxury of bringing in a large amount of eyewear lines to test for her customers. Being a fairly new practice, it was important for Ellent to develop a niche of what her patients wanted in terms of eyewear designers and styles. Some of these designers include Lindberg, Dita, Barton Perreira, Derek Lam, Modo and Wiley X. Being in one of the most competitive environments in New York, Ellent wanted to radically stand out from the crowd in terms of her eyewear selection as well as her dispensing process. “The dispensing process is a process,” describes Ellent. “It’s not one, two and three. It’s a very unique process where patients get treated like royalty when they are picking out their frames, and they know they are getting a unique piece of eyewear.” She seeks out expert products that she would personally invest in and teaches her patients about the construction and quality of each frame. “Eyewear is jewelry for the face, it really stands out. It can really change the look of a patient in an instant. It’s important when patients are wearing eyewear for eight to 10 hours every day, that it be a quality piece of eyewear that they love putting on… that it will become an extension of who they are.”

Ellent keeps her displays seasonal, so customers know of all the new products that they offer. The average retail frame price at The Gardens Eye Care is around $400, but customers can find frames at both higher and lower price points. Dr. Ellent strays away from advertising and has grown her practice on word of mouth as well as becoming involved with her beloved community. “It’s a very family-oriented neighborhood so we always like to support our local schools and participate in fundraisers, as well as community events. We also work with different charitable organizations to provide eyewear to the needy.” When hiring employees, Ellent searches for individuals who have a personality that customers can relate to, similar to her own, who will add to the friendly and relaxed environment she has created.

With a seamless combination of an optical boutique and family health care practice, Ellent has created a place where her patients can come for unsolicited and wholehearted service and advice. She has taken both the medical and aesthetic side of vision care and accomplished her dream of helping patients experience all that it has to offer. “I love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything different. There’s nothing more exciting and amazing than helping my patients see the world better and enjoy the luxury of experiencing the world through the most important sense we have.” ■