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Lookin' Good, Specs Around Town!
- Written by Tricia Stiller
INVISION, the magazine for the American Eyecare Professional, recently confirmed what many people in Central Illinois already know – Specs Around Town in Downtown Bloomington is one of America’s Finest. The magazine recognized the “sassy” boutique with an Honorable Mention in its third annual America’s Finest Optical Retailers Contest, and featured the shop in its September 2016 issue.
The magazine’s contest highlights the best examples of independent eyecare retailers in North America. Candidates are judged by a panel of optical retail experts on six categories: story, exterior appearance, interior appearance, advertising and marketing, store website and overall individuality.
“The shop has an awesome, eclectic feel to it,” offered judge, Colleen Galanti, “and your community and charity work is fabulous and important!” “The exterior reminds you of walking into a storybook,” added fellow judge Mark Karlsrud. “I love the detail devoted to play, and creating an environment that is family focused.”
“We’re honored to be included with such amazing optical retailers from around the country,” offers Specs owner Julie Kubsch. “We pride ourselves on selling the most unique eyewear in Central Illinois, so it feels good for our hard work to be recognized as one of “America’s Finest!”
Chatting over an assortment of gourmet cheeses and fine wine, Kubsch admits that the road to success hasn’t always been a smooth one. “There was so much math so long ago,” she laughs.
She’s talking about when she began her career path attending a Technical School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where she earned her degree in ophthalmic dispensing. “There were so many formulas to remember; how lenses were designed, made accurately to prescription and how to edge to fit perfectly in the frames people select.” It was also the dawn and early rise of progressive lenses for eyewear wearers worldwide. Our profession is always evolving with technology. She explains that she is an optician, not an ophthalmologist or optometrist (eye doctor). “I like to tell people I’m a pharmacist for lenses.”
Kubsch took her business on the road in 1998; A Volkswagen Beetle became her Optical Boutique, and she sold unique eyewear from the trunk. “I always knew there was another world out there, in terms of eyewear. I feel I helped to create the trend for fashionable eyewear, at least here in Central, Illinois. I like to think I helped empower people with vision issues who once upon a time might have been picked on, self concious or bullied. People with glasses now are proud to accessorize with an assortment of looks, colors and designs in their eyewear wardrobes. They have confidence. I feel good about that.”
Kubsch moved her business into a historic building in Downtown Bloomington in 2001, and she and her dedicated staff have formed lasting relationships with repeat clients ever since. “It’s not uncommon for people to tell us they drove more than an hour because they have heard of our fabulous selection and customer service,” Kubsch shares.
The boutique carries an impressive line of collections like Anne et Valentin/France, Maui Jim, Francis Klein/France, Theo/Belgium, l.a Eyeworks, Face a Face/France, Lindberg/Denmark, and Andy Wolf/Austria. All can be seen on their newly redesigned website by Palindrome Graphics.
When new clients arrive, Kubsch or a member of her team gives a brief tour of the shop just to help them get comfortable with the layout. They enjoy one on one service, but always allow the customer to browse, and ask questions. “We don’t want to overwhelm people,” she explains. “Some people are more comfortable browsing. Mostly, we listen. We want to be sure that any suggestions we make will completely fit into your lifestyle and visual needs.”
In late summer of 2016, Kubsch had to say goodbye to her beloved Shih Tzu, Lennie Buttons Kubsch, who passed away at the age of 11, after a brief illness. “Lennie was an important member of our staff,” Kubsch shares with a heavy sigh. “He had a legion of dedicated fans that would come in between fittings just to see him.” Though Lennie is missed dearly, his legend lives on; His unforgettable image adorns the boutique’s entry way, continuing to say welcome to all who stop in.
Specs Around Town, located at 317 N. Center Street, is open Tuesday thru Friday, 9:30 – 5; Thursdays until 6:30 and Saturdays from 10 – 2. Personal shopping is always available by appointment. You can also follow Specs Around Town on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook and at www.specsaroundtown.com