Dear Fabulous Readers,

Ms. Specs is an optical brat, growing up in the optical business with my sisters, and my daughter is an optometrist, the third generation optical professional in our family. My sisters and I began our optical career working in our mom’s optical business. So, I thought it would be grand to highlight independent generational optical businesses. We have many inspiring examples of this in our profession. A colleague introduced me to optical business entrepreneur, David Pildes. David is a third generation optical professional and works with his dad Michael in their family business which includes SkyLab Optical Laboratory, LAB-Tech Inc. and Avalon Eyewear Inc. The patriarch of the family, David’s grandfather Harry Pildes, was an optician. Like many optical brats, David was exposed to the family business at an early age. He and his dad Michael were gracious enough to tell their story:


Ms. Specs: Like you, I “grew up” in the optical business… was this a factor that made you decide to get involved in the optical business?

Michael Pildes:
Yes, it did. I worked in our family’s optical store as a teenager and continued during the summers as I made my way through college and optometry school. I knew the optical business and life, and that’s the direction in which I was always headed.

David Pildes: The business was in the background during my childhood. I went with my mother to our main retail stores as she decorated the windows. As a teenager, I would visit my father’s office and join him on trips to our suppliers in the U.S. and abroad. I worked briefly at our wholesale laboratory and later with a lens manufacturer in Asia. When I finished my studies, I began working in the family wholesale business full time. In a way it was inevitable.

You had a special assignment adhering labels for the inside of eyeglass cases while working for your OD father. Can you share that with us?

MP: Yes, we dispensed custom eyeglass cases in order to promote our former retail business which was bustling at the time. People traveled from all over to our store in lower Manhattan.

DP: Years ago, I happened upon a vintage eyeglass case in the window of an independent optical shop in Midtown Manhattan. As I got closer, I suddenly realized the label inside the case had my family name on it! I went back to the store soon afterwards only to find it had been sold. Fortunately, with some help we were able to track it down and get it back. It’s now framed in my office. As you can imagine it has a lot of sentimental value.

I saw a conversation on optical social media regarding these additional stickers to the inside of the cases. The optician wrote that using branded cases, the patient remembers the brand name of the frame, but not the practice where they purchased their eyewear. Having your company logo/address show every time the case is opened is so useful! This clever practice should be brought back to our profession.

DP: Yes, it is still an effective means for promoting one’s retail business. Our frames and accessories company Avalon Eyewear provides custom printed cases for its customers. These days they’re usually pad-printed or embossed, although labels are still used sometimes.

I understand that you brought your son into your business. Third generation?

MP: Yes, and it makes me happy to see the family tradition continue into the future.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the optical world since your childhood? How do you see the future of opticianry and optometry?

MP: The biggest change I have seen is the significant consolidation in the industry. However, I still think the future looks promising for ECPs, especially as the population ages, and patients become more aware of vision care. Consumers will continue to seek out the unique, hands-on approach and personalized experience they can get from an independent.

Well, Dear Readers, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed their inspiring story. Do you want to tell your story of an independent generational optical family business? Ms. Specs would love to hear it and share it with others! Please reach out to us.

See Well and Be Well,
Ms. Specs in the City
Laurie Pierce, ABOM

Do you have a question for Ms. Specs? Please send your question to [email protected], and we may feature it in a future column.