By Samantha Cortez


Southside Eyecare and Optical

Anchorage, Alaska

Number of employees 12


20/20 take
Creativity meets premiere
customer service.

The folks at Southside Eyecare and Optical in Anchorage, Alaska have been catching 20/20’s eye for quite some time. In August 2010, “Parting Glance” featured a fish sculpture created by optician and optical department manager Frances Scholz, along with her husband and daughter. The sculpture’s fish scales were crafted together using multicolored single vision lenses donated from Vision Craft in Yakima, Wash. A year and a half later, the creative team earned a second Parting Glance spot with the creation of an eyewear-shaped table.

When thinking of Alaska, one might conjure up mental snapshots of heavy coats, relentless snow and unbearable cold. A simple Google image search on the word “Alaska” produces photos of flurry white backdrops, ice caps and polar bears. “We sometimes encourage these stereotypical views,” says Scholz. “This way, we can keep this treasure to ourselves.”

The real story behind Southside Eyecare and Optical’s far-off location is less extreme. Winters are often milder than those of Midwestern states and average temperatures during this season typically fall in the 20s—perfect for outdoor activities. Chugach State Park (the third-largest state park in America) is at the foothills of Anchorage, with half a million acres of forests, mountains, wildflowers, streams and roaming animals. Alaskan residents take advantage of both the peak winter months and the longer summer days. They get the added benefit of being in Alaska’s largest city—without the smog and traffic of other major cities. “You could say we have the best of both worlds,” Scholz boasts.

Southside Eyecare and Optical is housed in a 12,000 square-foot building called Admiral’s Place, owned and operated by Drs. Jan H. and Bernadine Nyboer. The building began ground development in November 2002 and took eight months to construct. The optical office shares its space with an event hall that caters to thousands of attendees annually and Sona Vita, a medical day spa that provides corrective laser treatments, massages, waxing treatments and hair salon services. Dr. Bernadine Nyboer, who co-owns the building with her husband, designed the interior of each of the businesses. When it comes to layout design, Dr. Nyboer says, “I pay attention to patient flow, maximizing space usage and universal design which focuses on multiuse products, spaces and access.”

The main hall of Admiral’s Place is a testament to the serene ambience that Dr. Bernadine Nyboer had in mind. Beyond a friendly exterior composed of cultured sandstone is a stunning main hall with 12-foot ceilings, mountain views and the Alaska sun shining through the western windows. Southside Eyecare and Optical boasts an impressive interior design with maple furniture, recessed track rail lighting and coffee-brown leather armoires. The flooring is almost entirely eco-friendly, making use of recycled carpet tiles, bamboo, cork and marmoleum.

Because of its location, the team at Southside Eyecare and Optical goes the extra mile to stay on top of relevant fashion trends while catering to their specific demographic. “Perhaps due to remoteness, Alaskans tend to do more computer research,” says Scholz, who has worked for Dr. Jan H. Nyboer for 14 years. “In times when people can buy anything on the Internet, it’s our service and expertise they value. I read many trade magazines to keep up with industry styles and subscribe to fashion, art and design magazines and blogs to keep up with trends.”

The 700 square-foot dispensary carries a variety of brands including Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, John Varvatos, Silhouette, ProDesign and Lafont. In addition, the practice carries an extensive children’s and sunwear collection. Price points range from $135 to $695.

As part of the business philosophy, the team strives to provide the best health care and eyewear. Individuality is at the core of their customer service model. “We treat each patient as if they are the only patient we have,” says Scholz. “We have a long-term relationship with our patients, which in turn develops new clientele through word-of-mouth referrals.” The practice also benefits from its shared space with the event hall, which provides visible exposure for Southside Eyecare and Optical through its 90-plus events each year.

Customer care comes smoothly with a team that has backhand knowledge of cutting-edge industry technology. Dr. Jan H. Nyboer is a pioneer in promoting refractive laser surgery for the workplace and military. Dr. Christie Stemmle is a specialist in gas permeable contact lens fitting for those with Keratoconus. Also displayed in the practice’s dispensary is a “Smart Mirror,” an imaging device that allows patients to try on multiple pairs of eyewear and compare photos of themselves in different options.  “We were the first practice to use the Smart Mirror in our dispensary in Anchorage,” says Scholz.

Southside Eyecare and Optical’s unique attributes extend beyond its physical appearance, customer philosophy and exclusive location on the map. The practice stands out with its unwavering dedication to the optical craft and unique creative projects. Frances Scholz pulls inspiration for the practice’s creations from everyday life. The idea behind the fish sculpture made of lenses is unassumingly simple: “For many years folks have been coming in to replace their glasses because they lost them in the river, lake or ocean while fishing,” Scholz told 20/20 in August 2010.

In May 2010, 20/20 featured a Parting Glance photo from 1987 of spectacle-shaped snacking tables from Global Optics. The photo caught Scholz’s eyes and she set out to create her own version of the opti-table.

“With a bit of inspiration from 20/20, I have been learning the joys of woodworking from my spouse, and these tables and other art projects are a result of those lessons,” says Scholz, who is currently in the process of creating her fourth eyewear-inspired table. “I just finished an art piece for another optical shop here in Anchorage and a coffee table for a ProDesign rep in California.”

Currently lining the walls of Southside Eyecare and Optical are kites with brand logos splashed across their surfaces in honor of the spring season. This display, like many of Southside Eyecare and Optical’s past and future artistic endeavors, speaks volumes for the aesthetics at the practice: Be unique.

The team at Southside Eyecare and Optical doesn’t abide by a strict business formula. When it comes to limitations, there are none. The secret at the bottom of the barrel is… there is no secret. If they envision it, they build it. ■