By Jill Nagy
Family Vision Care Center at 205 Lake Ave. in Saratoga Springs is celebrating its 100th anniversary,doing so with monthly events for the rest of the year.
Plans changed, both for the celebration and for the business itself, with the advent of the coronavirus lockdown. But the center is reopening and will continue marking the anniversary.
The business in March was restricted to emergency care only and the staff worked at home or not at all. April, usually the center’s business month, saw essentially no business at all, the owners said. The celebration went online, with monthly raffles and a “throwback” video every Thursday recounting some of the business’s history.
Owner Susan Halstead said she has been cross-promoting with other Saratoga businesses on the monthly raffles. For example, one month the Vision Center combined an offer of sunglasses with a prize of wine and dinner at Taverna Novo. Another month, children’s sunglasses were combined with a gift certificate from the Saratoga Springs toy store G. Willikers. Anyone who contacts the center is entered in the raffle. There is no cost involved.
Throwback Thursdays feature videos on Facebook and Instagram recounting stories of previous owners. The first owner, named Nimimoto, changed his name during World Was II because he feared he would be interned. He was born and raised in Saratoga Springs but his father was Asian. The second owner produced a memoir, that Halstead is sharing through the Throwback series. She is the third owner.
During the slowdown, Halstead transformed her office to be as virus-proof as possible when it re-opened. The first things patients will notice is the receptionist “in a bubble,” an anti-bacterial plastic curtain. Clients will have protective barriers between them and more space between seats. A second laboratory has been added.
Staff members are outfitted in personal protective equipment, there are masks available for clients, cleaning protocols were established. Employees with marketing and insurance functions still work from home.
Less obvious additions are four medical-grade air purifiers and an ultra-violet light system to purify air for heating and air conditioning.
Monthly shows allowing manufacturers to display new frames are gone. Previously, “that was the only time you could see an entire collection,” Halstead said. Instead, a frame gallery has been added to the center’s website. Customers are encouraged to choose online before coming in to try on frames, another way to “minimize the footprint.” It also reduces the amount of cleaning. Once a frame is tried on, it has to be sanitized before anyone else can try it.
Customers can have their glasses delivered to them in their cars or shipped to them at home. “Obviously, we prefer to fit them,” Halstead said.
Another innovation is the addition of lower-cost eyeglass frames. “We are trying to prepare for what our community is facing economically,” she said. Some frames are offered at a deep discount. Others are repriced so that insurance will cover the entire cost.
“I don’t even want to go there,” Halstead said about the cost of the changes. “It was a leap of faith on my part. I want staff to feel safe being here and we want customers to feel safe.”
Halstead is a board-certified licensed optician. The practice also includes on optometrist (who can perform eye exams and prescribe glasses), and an apprentice optician, whose plans to take her board exams were canceled by the shutdown.
The Family Vision Care Center website is familyvisioncenter.com. The telephone number is 518 584-6111.