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Create an Optical Dispensary Experience

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This is the original version of the article that appears in Optometric Management, April 2016: Create A Memorable Optical

Create an Optical Dispensary Experience

A couple of years ago, I was eating dinner at Chipotle and saw a plywood perforated wall. I was inspired. I knew at that exact moment I would somehow incorporate that idea, look and feel into my new optical dispensary.

I knew it was time to remodel. Optical sales were lagging and the optical dispensary just wasn’t a comfortable space to work or shop in. It offered very little to remember, well except for the amazing wallpaper from the 1970’s and more amazing light fixtures from the 1980’s. It was time.

Why bother with a remodel?

Patients are consumers and consumers are not looking for products anymore, they are looking for an experience. They want to feel happy and comfortable when they are spending money. It gives them value. Think about when you’re in Las Vegas. Suddenly you want to buy a round of drinks, blow $20 in a slot machine and pay hundreds of dollars on shows. Las Vegas makes you feel the fun and money is no longer the main concern. Vegas is an experience. You need the right, good-looking space to create that special experience.

How to create an optical dispensary experience?

I’ve outlined 3 basic principles to help you create not just an optical dispensary but an optical dispensary that patients will remember.



The best way to create a unique space is to tell a story. Not just any story, but your story. We are doctors, not interior decorators. We just need a little inspiration. A great place to get inspiration would be any non-optometry related business such as a restaurant, hotel, tech store, clothing store or furniture store. Observe the walls, floors, lighting, displays, colors and materials. Take photos of what catches your eye. Chances are, if it catches your eye – it will work for your patients too.

Another effective method of creating your story is to start an inspiration board on Pinterest. You can simply pin photos of rooms, displays, lighting, colors and materials that inspire you. Soon you’ll have your story unfold right in front of you. It will take about 200 pins to really visualize your story, so the more the better. 

The most often overlooked inspiration is your home. What tells your story better than the home you’ve already made? We painted a few select walls in our office a shade of orange which happens to be the color of my home foyer and bathroom. I also took a few pieces of artwork from home and added them to the optical dispensary. Not only did these things personalize and help tell my story, it made the space feel like home. Home is where the eyes are, right?



Finances at Oakland Vision Center were tight in 2014 so I needed to design an optical dispensary that was affordable yet tell my story. I also wanted patients to feel comfortable but at the same time inspire them to spend money. From my inspiration board we went to a local hardware store and gathered all the elements together. We mounted screws that cost $0.19 into OSB plywood boards that cost $13.00 a piece. It took about 2 hours of labor to drill and install which cost $80.00. We added a shelf to display objects of interest for $29.95 each and 2 camping light fixtures for $19.99 a piece. When everything was said and done, each of my wall displays cost about $200 to make.

I wanted a few posh displays to showcase our most expensive glasses collections. What could be better than metal and glass? I purchased metal and glass bookshelves from a furniture store for $250 each. After cost of installation with the OSB plywood backdrop and large nuts and bolts, the total came to under $350.

The look was unique, fit the vibe of downtown Oakland and most importantly, was beautiful on the pocketbook. The total cost of glasses displays was $3,100. Because, I roll like that.





After new, beautiful glasses displays comes time to merchandise them. This is a fabulous opportunity to continue your story. Create displays that continue to tell your story but without the clutter. We want patients to be able to see the merchandise and we also don’t want the glasses to be washed away by too much visual noise. Keep it simple and clean.

Visual noise is distracting and takes away from your story. Logo plaques, paper displays and banners given to you for free from glasses manufacturers only tell their story. A wonderful way to test the strength of your optical dispensary merchandising is to remove every single point-of-purchase display from glasses manufacturers. The result should be a place where you’d still like to shop as a consumer and a place that tells a unique story.

At Oakland Vision Center, we organize our dispensary by brands. Each brand is displayed with a unique theme. We make use of white picture frames in all sizes so we can easily swap themes as the seasons and glasses collections change. Here are some ideas that we implemented with success and new ideas for you to use in your optical dispensary: 

  1. I’m a big fan of succulents so this was an inspiration that I brought from my home backyard. Instead of the typical monthly flower arrangement that wilts after a few days, we opted for unique and stylish succulent arrangements instead. Small enough to fit in your hand and also small enough to merchandise (and Instagram) with. Spritz a little water every other day, and they are (near) impossible to kill. 
  2. Have a favorite sports team? Or a man cave at home? Bring that inspiration to your optical dispensary and display your bobble heads, framed tickets and game day swag. If you practice in a town that worships sports, use them to merchandise your most expensive glasses collection.
  3. When my nephews were aged 3 and 5, they put paint to canvas and made some amazing abstract artwork. We use their 6” x 8” pieces of art to merchandise our Etnia Barcelona glasses since that collection is known for art and color. Patients love that we added that personal touch.
  4. Visit a bookstore and get a small book with images that you love. This will be your theme. The images should be about postcard size so it’s easy to display and picture frame. My next theme will be #foodporn where we will display mouthwatering photos of brunch and merchandise the glasses with cool salt and pepper shakers and forks. After all, who doesn’t love pancakes?
  5. Grab a children’s book you liked when you were a kid and place the pictures into frames. Currently, we have Where The Wild Things Are displayed with our Iyoko Inyake glasses. If you loved it as a kid, your patients will likely feel the same way.

Creating an optical dispensary that patients will remember doesn’t necessary cost a lot of money but will require some inspiration, an open mind and the bravery to edit the clutter. We designed a space that told our unique story and the feedback has been extremely positive. In the first year since our remodel, our optical dispensary has grown by 30%. And the best part about it – it’s 100% paid for in full. Because, that’s how we roll.



About the author

Dr. Tanya N. Gill, OD is the owner of Oakland Vision Center Optometry located at 1960 Broadway, Oakland CA.

Oakland Vision Center is the 1st place winner of America’s Finest Optical Retailer in 2015 and was the only business to receive a perfect 100% score for the category “website” and “individuality.”

Dr Gill is obsessed with ocular surface disease, kick-ass female entrepreneurship, never saying never, eating vegetables daily and brightly colored sneaker pumps. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and is the founder of We Love Eyes, a company that makes natural, non-toxic cleansing products for the eyes. 


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  • Written by Tanya Gill

    Dr. Gill is also a member of the Ocular Surface Society of Optometry. In addition to her Doctor of Optometry, Dr. Gill also has a BA in Integrative Biology and a BS in Vision Science, both from UC Berkeley. Go Bears!
    In 2015, Dr. Gill developed and founded We Love Eyes, which is a green cosmetics company that produces eyelid and eyelash cleansing products that are natural, non-toxic, and vegan.

    More Articles by Tanya Gill

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