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McClatchy-Tribune  07/25/2014 1:05 PM ET
Philadelphia Daily News Michael Hinkelman column [Philadelphia Daily News :: ]

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July 25--DR. CHRIS ANASTASIOU, 56, of South Philadelphia, is an optometrist who owns the Modern Eye optical shops/optometrist offices in University City, on Walnut Street near 34th, and in Center City, 13th and Walnut. A magazine for eye-care professionals recently named Modern Eye one of the top three independent optical retailers.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea for Modern Eye?

A: I was working as a hired optometrist for a small chain of eyeglass shops. I went in with the owner as a franchise partner and the store was originally called Eyeglass Encounters in University City. I bought him out in 1997 and changed the name to Modern Eye. Then we opened the second location in Midtown Village in 2005, and that was previously an optical space. We were able to get a loan and renovate it.

Q: The biz model?

A: We have people who see glasses in the window, like them, and ask, "Oh, do you have a doctor here?" I have a good patient base, and we're also providers for several insurance vision plans.

Q: Your customers?

A: The two locations have different customer bases. The University City shop gets a lot of Penn folks, faculty, maintenance people, food workers. At Midtown Village, it's more of a 30ish crowd, professionals and also folks in their 50s and 60s. We get a lot of Whole Foods employees at both shops. We're a provider for their insurance vision plan.

Q: What distinguishes you from other eye-care centers?

A: Pearle Vision and LensCrafters shops are pretty much the same all over. We deal with manufacturers who just do glasses, they're smaller lines, and more craftsmanship goes into it. We have eyeglasses here, complete with lenses and frames, from $99 all the way up to $1,000 just for a frame. But a lot of the time, the average price is mid-$200 to $400. We charge $75 for an eye exam.

Q: Value proposition?

A: Great staff, that's a good part of it. We're one of the few optical stores that has something for everybody, looks decent and won't bust your budget.

Q: You hire ex-restaurant employees. Why's that?

A: They can multitask, and restaurant people tend to stay busier, interact well with the public and pick things up faster.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: Trying to compete with chain stores. People see ads for cheap glasses, but glasses are like clothes. You can get a complete outfit at Kmart for $59 or go to Saks and buy it for $1,000. Both will keep you clothed, but you're going to look and feel better in the nicer outfit.

Q: How big a biz is this?

A: Gross revenue was about $3.5 million last year. We have 15 employees, including two optometrists besides myself, one who's part time.

On Twitter: @MHinkelman



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