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My Eyelab sets its eyes on isolated locations

Al Urbanski
My Eyelab's use of remote opticians to conduct exams allows it to set up shop in under-served markets.
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For folks in rural areas, eye examinations are often an annual family outing. Optical shops must pay opticians who do eye exams salaries in excess of $150,000, and that’s just not profitable in towns like Beersheba Springs, Tenn., or Deweyville, Utah.

But soon a local trip to the optician may become a reality in those rural locations, thanks to My Eyelab. This brand, owned by Stanton Optical, has introduced a game-changer to the optical business—the remotely operated phoropter. That’s the big metal machine crammed with different lenses that an optometrist puts up against a patient’s face and drops this lens and that lens to determine a proper lens prescription. The difference with My Eyelab’s phoropter is that it’s operated by an optometrist many miles away.

“We can have one doctor conduct what we call tele-health exams at many different store locations from a single office space,” said Michael Wootton, VP of franchise development for My Eyelab. “This allows us to open franchises in smaller markets or un-serviced urban markets in smaller stores. The average Stanton optical center is usually around 2,800 to 3,200 sq. ft. An Eyelab can work at 1,600 to 2,200.”

Staffers at My Eyelab learn how to set up the phoropter and position the patient in it properly, then let the optometrist who appears on a flat-screen TV in the room conduct the examination. Unlike full-service stores such as Stanton’s that can produce finish eyeglasses within an hour, My Eyelab customers may wait up to a week to pick up their orders. But many prefer that to the long family drive to Chattanooga or Salt Lake City.

The price is competitive, as well. A standard deal at My Eyelab is two pairs of glasses for $59.

Not all states have approved the use of the remotely controlled phoropter, Arkansas and Indiana being two where My Eyelab is not able to operate. Wootton, however, is currently busy setting up new franchises in Texas and Oklahoma and plans to open 87 new stores by the end of 2021, bringing My Eyelab’s total to 205.

“We’re going to try to double that to as many as 160 new stores in 2021 and keep that pace up for the next couple of years,” Wootton said.

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