As all of you know, a few weeks back I stumbled upon a locally owned small business called EyeMaxx Optical Studio, located on Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa. I was due for an eye exam and to my delight they offered online booking, so I scheduled an appointment and had a full check-up with one of their certified optometrists.
I've been a glasses wearer for *cough* 25 years and have had my eyes checked oodles of times, but I was very impressed by Dr. Lavigne's friendly, professional manner and her thorough exam. I was equally impressed by the immaculately clean and organized exam rooms, and even the waiting area was a cut above with chic mid-century furniture. As you read in my earlier post, I was pretty surprised by some of the things I learned about my eyes and my previous prescriptions so I will definitley be going back to Dr. Lavigne for my future exams.
After the eye exam it was time to shop for a new pair of glasses. And as they say, I was cautiously optimistic. I have a square face and because most mainstream brands run narrow (including Ray-Ban and my beloved Miu Miu), very few of their frames suit my face or my features. In my many years of buying glasses at typical chain stores, no one seemed to have any training in face shapes. But that didn't prevent them from selling me expensive glasses anyway.
I distinctly remember walking out of one such chain several years ago after dropping $700 on new designer frames and prescription lenses. Later that week I ran in to one of my straight-shooting girlfriends (I love you Sophie!) who told me, "oh honey, those just don't work for you". Honestly, what would we do without our girlfirends? I had presumed the sales staff wouldn't steer me wrong because surely they had training in face shapes, frame styles, and measurements, but it seemed they'd been more focused on hitting their corporate sales targets than in helping me find a flattering fit.
I was so fed up that for the next six years I turned to online shopping because it offered better prices and selection, and because traditional in-store staff hadn't been any help to me anyway. But I have to admit you get what you pay for, and after a few iffy prescriptions I was ready to try shopping for glasses at a boutique once again. Enter EyeMaxx.
Never EVER have I been this overwhelmed by options that worked for my face shape and my personal style. Staff members Kaytlyn and Parsa were incredibly helpful and patient, and Kaytlyn in particular was a gem, pulling out pair after pair to make sure I examined all the options. As you'll remember from my last post, I narrowed it down to my top five then asked for you to weigh in on the blog and on social media to help me choose.
I tallied up all your votes and it was essentially a dead heat between Tom Ford, Salt, and Alain Mikli (sorry Ray-Ban, you lose). Tom Ford edged out the others by a single vote, so I was really torn about what to do.
I walked into EyeMaxx ready to order the beautiful Tom Fords but I was still think about the styles by Salt, because the quality of those frames felt next level. Then Kaytlyn pulled out a brand new style by Salt that had just arrived. They were a unique spin on tortoiseshell: higher contrast than most and in cool-toned shades that suited my complexion perfectly. The width was perfect for my square face and they had a subtle upsweep at the temple that balanced out my strong jaw.
I fell for them immediately, it was love. I really hope I haven't disappointed you lovely folks by changing my mind, but this pair was a total wild card. I fully expected to order the Tom Fords, especially because I'm biased towards anything Tom Ford anyway... I mean, have you SEEN his lipsticks?! Sniffed his perfumes?! But this brand new Salt arrival felt even more special than the others, plus the EyeMaxx staff agreed this pair was overall a better fit for my face, and especially for my narrow nose bridge. I legit had a high school crush on these glasses. I had to have them. I wanted to go steady. I ordered them.
So... whaddaya think?
THE WINNING PAIR: SALT OPTICS "DASHA" IN BISQUE HAVANA
Here they are from a few more angles:
Like 'em? Leave me a comment below with your two cents!
When I picked them up in-store I met the lovely owner, Dawn, and she made a few adjustments to make sure they were perfectly fitted to my face. She told me to wear them for a few days in a row to see how they feel, and then pop back if I felt they needed any further tweaking. My vision is crystal clear, the lenses are super thin (I went uber high index due to my strong prescription), and they felt comfortable immediately. I wasn't even akwardly stepping over curbs like I usually do when I get a new pair of specs (anybody else experience that with a new pair of glasses?).
Real talk: I've been blown away by EyeMaxx on every level. Their cheery staff are exceptionally well trained, know their inventory, and know what works for a variety of faces. I've never had such a positive experience shopping for glasses so I had to pick Dawn's brain and find out how she built such a cool local business. Folks, meet Dawn Maxwell, owner of EyeMaxx Optical Studio:
How fabulous does she look in these Tom Ford glasses?
AMYIN613: What led you to start your business? Have you always been interested in eyewear?
DAWN: My Father is an optometrist, and I started working for him as a receptionist at the age of 14. Throughout the years I would work the summers and vacation periods, and I really enjoyed the business. Although I had been accepted to Carleton University for my first choice, Journalism, I didn't get accepted into student housing and my parents were not excited to come to Ottawa to help with my search for accommodations.
So, in my deliberation of what to do....I decided that I enjoyed the optical business so much that I applied to become an optician. So, I applied and was accepted. With student accommodation, easy! I knew very early on in school exactly what I wanted to accomplish in my career. I worked as an apprentice for a year in an optical store and then went on to a career in sales on the road for two very large optical distributors. After 14 years of travel throughout north eastern ontario, I freelanced as an optician in the Ottawa region for two years.
I had always wanted to open up my own business and the opportunity presented itself in March 2008. A past client of mine called to ask me if I was interested in buying his business... it was Jack Winter Opticians on Elgin Street. I became the new owner of Jack Winter in May 2008., and in November 2008 I re-opened the business under a new name...Eyemaxx Optical Studio. It was so satisfying to continue the independence of this neighbourhood optical store.
AMYIN613: What sets you apart from the big chains so many of us have dealt with in the past?
DAWN: First of all, I am in the store most days. When I am not in the store, I am available by text, email or a phone call. This availability is not only to my staff but my clients as well. I often get emails late into the evening from clients and I answer all of them. They are shocked that someone is looking out for them around the clock! This personal service just isn't available at a big chain store. We look up information for clients immediately, we have online eye exam bookings for patients (6 days a week!) and the boutique itself is open 7 days a week. We take great care to provide the best service possible and continuously strive to achieve and exceed that goal. Clients see the same staff at EyeMaxx year after year, so they have greater confidence in us when they come back time and time again and see familiar faces taking great care of them and their optical needs.
AMYIN613: Many people (myself included) have turned to ordering glasses online, particularly because of price. Has this impacted your business? Do you have any words of caution for those buying glasses online?
DAWN: Most people look online due to price, but when it comes to eyeglasses, going online can be detrimental to the consumer. For example, precise measurements need to be taken: as you learned, sizing for frames is very important for fit, comfort, and of course style. We have had many people come to us after "bad" decisions from online purchases. I believe as a health care professional, the health of your eyes is very important. The internet can not assess incorrect prescriptions and measurements, or ill fitting contact lenses that can lead to some serious eye health concerns.
Generally, if the internet purchase goes wrong, it will be the last time the consumer will ever purchase online. Plus, who doesn't love to try on glasses!
AMYIN613: What's next for EyeMaxx, anything big on the horizon?
DAWN: Eyemaxx is always adding new designers! We get very excited at new frame releases. Last year we were excited to visit Las Vegas for Vision Expo West, and this year we're heading to Vision Expo East in New York City! We like to hand pick our frames and choose designers that are exclusive to our store, beause it's what keeps us unique. We have our Annual S.A.L.T. and Lindberg trunk show coming up in May of 2016, and it's always an exciting event showcasing the complete line of both companies.
Also, our annual BLACK FRIDAY EVENT will start on the 26th of November and run for 2 weeks. We'll have markdown's on frames styles that have been at EyeMaxx for 6 months or more, and we'll have some specials on contact lenses too. This gives our clients a great opportunity to add to their eyewear wardrobe with the one or two pairs they are missing....there's always another pair to be had!!
EXCLUSIVE SAVINGS FOR AMYIN613 READERS
So Black Friday sales are coming, but you my friends don't need to wait! Because I loved EyeMaxx so much, I asked them for some special deals for you and these will be available all year long. All you need to do is mention that you heard about EyeMaxx here on Amy in 613 or show them my blog on your phone and you'll get:
20% off complete pairs of prescription eyeglasses or prescription sunglasses
20% off any one-year supply of contact lenses
15% off any non-prescription sunglasses