By Samantha Cortez

The struggling state of the economy has hit especially hard in the loosely populated town of St. Helens, Ore., home to the popular teen saga, “Twilight.” The optometry practice of Family Vision Care sits near several vacant buildings and the local pharmacy. Step inside and you will see a classic teal and cream ’80s motif, complete with drop ceilings, ­fluorescent lighting, square corners, straight lines and ­hospital-like waiting chairs. In 1985, Family Vision Care had the right idea for a “modern” look.

Family Vision Care

St. Helens, Oregon

Number of locations 2

Number of employees 4


20/20 take
Brand new design coated with old-school values.

Twenty-five years later, the formerly modern ­appearance is decidedly “former.”

The office is one of two Dan Mannen, OD, runs; its younger counterpart is just seven miles away in ­Scappoose. He and Lena Yee, OD, alternate shifts between the two offices, with each practice maintaining its separate staffs.

“The St. Helens space was nice,” says Mannen. “But it no longer had pizzazz. I’m aware that we’re definitely in a visual world where patients want to see what’s new and different, and to have it displayed in a way that shows off the variety. Our aim was to create a new image that was both high tech and high touch.”

What initially started out as a typical carpet and paint job turned into an all-out renovation project with an entirely new design plan. After a site visit and discussion with Alan Winig from Eye Designs, it was apparent to Mannen that in order to truly accomplish their goals, the project parameters needed to be expanded. With just 1,500 square feet of space to work with, this was no easy task. 

The exterior upgrade consists of new awnings and fresh paint, while the interior enhancement includes major readjustments. “Eye Designs did a terrific job in making site recommendations, such as providing us with color scheme, dispensary and even furniture options,” says Mannen.

The improvements varied: The ceilings were raised and included new, cozy lighting, brightening the area and highlighting the dispensary. Innovative frameboards were installed along with a modern dispensary collection and frame display option. Furniture in the dispensary, cabinetry and exam room were removed and replaced with upbeat and stylish pieces personally shipped from Philadelphia. The front desk was replaced entirely; new cabinets and work stations were installed in the business office; the bathroom received new flooring, paint and fixtures. In addition, all paper records were scanned in an effort to build a modern electronic database, eliminating file cabinets to optimize storage and organization.

In just 18 days, the entire project was complete. The response has since been powerful and positive. 

“We constantly remind our patients that their satisfaction and opinion are the only ones that count,” says Mannen. “Customers were very enthusiastic about the changes and our staff was reenergized.”

This isn’t to say looks are all that matter. Family Vision Care has a strict philosophy when it comes to customer care: “To combine world-class professional vision and medical care with the very best retail experience.” In order to support and aid customers in the most efficient way possible, the practice employs premiere ­technology and assists with several services, including contact lens services, medical management and surgical co-management, and 24-hour ocular emergency services.

The medical focus is to provide comprehensive, comparative and preventive eye care beyond the common eye conditions. “We work very hard to educate patients about their medical conditions. Success to us is when the patient leaves with a feeling that we made recommendations which fully addressed their personal concerns,” notes Mannen.

The dispensary caters to individuals with a selection of frame styles and varying price points, from basic vendor house brand frames to designer frames such as Fendi and Diane von Furstenberg. Variety and value are prominently highlighted on frameboards. The children and sun collections are a particular favorite for the immense amount of excellent options, with Skechers and Disney being top choices for kids, and Maui Jim and Tommy Bahama for sun.
We constantly remind our patients that their satisfaction and opinion are the only ones that count.—Dan Mannen, ODM
As in any business, attracting new customers is particularly important. Without the use of traditional advertisement, the best source of new patients for Family Vision Care is through word-of-mouth referrals, which have proven successful in the business. “It’s not enough to have a satisfied patient,” says Mannen. “We want to create an experience for an enthusiastic patient who refers their friends and family to our practice.”

Family Vision Care’s website and its growing social media presence make the practice more accessible and assimilated to the times. Affirming a sense of community is also important. Family Vision Care is actively involved in the local church and participates in a variety of school and community activities either as sponsors, contributors or both. In addition to this community presence, they are active youth sport boosters.

Say goodbye to 1985. The new office boasts coffee brown and black cabinets with olive green accents and a raised ceiling with modernized can and rail lighting. The puke green hospital chairs are gone, replaced with homey earth tones: red and burnt orange seating with subtle curves to provide an edgy, yet professional look and feel.

Mannen’s message is upbeat and energetic. “We know the economy is struggling. Our county has a particularly high unemployment rate. With our upgrades, our office is the exception and it demonstrates our faith in the community.”

Suddenly, 1,500 square feet seems like a whole lot more. ■