By Lauren Taylor
In the city that’s considered “twice as nice” in the state where “everything is bigger,” the new office built by optometrists Mark Allen and James Moser could fit both descriptions when compared to its old location. Located on the Texas side in the city of Texarkana, the new office built by Drs. Allen and Moser spans 6,000 square feet on its bottom floor, with an extra 1,500 feet upstairs ready for growth. After outgrowing their first building, the partners of Visionsource Texarkana decided to move down the road and start from scratch with plenty of room to grow in the coming years. The practice expanded from four exam rooms to six, with two offices and a 1,500 square foot dispensary.
“The build-out in the old building was a good design, but it was starting to become dated, and we wanted to get a little more space and redesign the optical area to accomplish some objectives as far as optical sales are concerned,” says Dr. Allen.
The partners hired Barbara Wright of Barbara Wright Design to help with their office and dispensary redesign.
“We wanted something warmer and more professional than our old office,” says Dr. Allen. “We wanted something more appealing for our patients.”
With a diverse base of patients ranging from low- to high-income, the ODs couldn’t afford to cater to one demographic over another. Dr. Allen describes a typical patient as being value-conscious but not necessarily price-conscious. These customers want to be sure they’re getting the best value for the amount of money they are spending.
“We wanted to move towards selling a higher-end product without alienating our value-conscious patients,” says Dr. Allen. “In the old office, all the frames were basically displays on board, but Barbara created a high-fashion gallery for our higher-end frames.”
“Many of my clients are worried about how to draw in more high-income patients without discouraging others,” says Wright. “The last thing any practitioner wants is for a patient to walk in and think, ‘Oh, no! This place is too expensive for me now.’”
Wright designed a dispensary using shades of green and brown, with free-standing showcases, wall-hung shadowboxes and dispensing tables in a dark wood look. The high-fashion gallery within the main dispensary is defined by four columns supporting a dramatic up-light barrel vault overhead. Free-standing showcases act as a see-through divider between the high fashion area and the reception counter.
“Everyone is drawn to the high-end area immediately,” says Dr. Allen. “Everyone wants to see what’s in those cabinets.” The office stocks frames such as Gucci, Oliver Peoples and Kio Yamoto in their cabinets, and the doctors are looking to expand their high-end stock.
As for the rest of the dispensary, the deep build-outs on the walls designed by Wright to hold frame bars and glass shelves cut down on cabinet expenses. She used money saved on cabinets to invest in good lighting to highlight the frames displayed.
“One thing different about our new office is the lighting—it was pretty poor in the old office,” says Dr. Allen. “Barbara told me at the beginning that displays don’t sell the frames, lighting does, and she’s right. So we used a bigger budget for lighting than we originally planned.” Halogen down lights in wall cases and track lights on the ceiling, as well as wall sconces and hidden fluorescent up-lighting are featured throughout the dispensary.
The floorplan of the dispensary is designed to ease traffic flow through the office, including a separate frame delivery area just off the dispensary, with shadowboxes full of accessories. The check-out counter also features smaller versions of the shadowboxes for last-minute impulse purchases.
Dr. Allen reports that eyewear sales, especially for sunwear, have more than doubled since moving to the new building.
“In the old office, we were like your typical private OD practice: it’s difficult to sell sunglasses,” says Dr. Allen. “The patients weren’t in the retail shopping mood. But with the atmosphere we have now and the visibility of the sunglasses, the sales are up about 300 percent from the old office.”
And the new atmosphere has affected more than just the patients. “I attribute a lot of our success to the excitement the staff has of the new optical area—they love it out there, and it gives the patients the atmosphere they enjoy,” says Dr. Allen. “It’s more of a higher-end retail atmosphere.”