Timothy Herrick, from 20/20's
jobs should a dispenser send to an independent lab with a reputation
for customizing lenses and finding solutions for hard-to fit-patients?
For Steve Edelstein, optical manager at Rochester Eye Center, a
two-location ophthalmology office in Rochester, N.Y., the answer
is, essentially, all of them. Edelstein has used Rochester-based
Advance Optical as his primary lab for several years because ofrather
than in spite ofits reputation for accuracy on specialty work.
an ophthalmology practice, you really see everything, says Edelstein.
But I want the minus single-vision lenses and the progressives
to be processed as accurately and precisely as the slab-offs or tougher
Were sticklers for detail, admits Advance president
Morley Gwirtzman. We have the reputation of constantly calling
our customers about little things. We double-check everything. In
the lab itself, we have a series of checks before final inspection.
As an example of the labs philosophy, Gwirtzman relates a story where a long-time
customer recently sent him a card saying: Youre my favorite lab because you
let nothing go by.
You always hear the complaints, so its nice to hear the compliments as
well, says the lab owner. We pride ourselves on constant and in-depth
communication with dispensers.
Advance Optical is a medium-sized lab, processing 250 to 300 jobs per day. The bulk of its
orders come from dispensers in New York State. Gwirtzmans father opened Advance in
1922 and the lab remains family owned today. Advance had a strong following in the frame
distribution market until the 1980s. Then, frame sales shifted to direct sellers and
buying groups and the lens category expanded and diversified with premium lenses. Although
it has maintained a thriving frame, sunwear and optical accessories business, Advance has
also upgraded to state-of-the-art processing equipment and renewed its commitment to
We have expertise built upon decades of delivering harder jobs, says
Gwirtzman, adding that this expertise is reinforced by an internal training program.
The techs remain current on all new lens products and processing procedures.
The labs reputation for accurately processing specialty work has been enhanced by
its ABO-certified seminar program. Every six weeks or so, Arthur Kolko, vice president at
Advance, presents a lecture/workshop entitled The Optical X-Files to such
groups as the local chapter of the New York State Society of Opticians and other eyecare
professionals throughout the Empire State. The seminar, as well as the customer service
philosophy of Advance Optical, is intended to be eyecare staff-friendly, which also
accounts for the lab garnering troublesome as well as bread-and-butter orders from its
The fact of the matter is, theres a tremendous amount of turnover at the
retail level, explains Kolko. Sometimes you are dealing with a real
knowledgeable optician, other times you are dealing with a staff member who has not been
working with lenses very long. They may not know what an aspheric is or that you can get
an aspheric for that +2.00D as well as that +12.00D and create a job that is the best it
can be. We walk them through the ordering process.
Like the television program from which the seminars name is taken, The Optical
X-Files explores the unusual in lens processing work. Instead of aliens and the
paranormal, Kolko investigates lens products. His main thrust is using lenses and lens
treatments to solve patient problems, especially hard-to-fit prescriptions. According to
Kolko, the seminar begins with a primer on basics, then explores some of the problematic
We go into everything from slab-offs to progressives and aspherics, he says.
Not everybody realizes that the new lens designs and materials are available in a
wider range of Rxs. We want to take the fear out of dispensing some products.
Its one of the most informative and entertaining lens seminars Ive
attended, adds Edelstein, a 30-year dispensing veteran. Its both a
refresher course and a way to look at new products that arent in the
manufacturers brochures or trade journals.
At the conclusion of the course, Kolko has all seminar attendees
fill out a questionnaire. One question asks: What did you
learn? According to Kolko, the lab has received answers ranging
from the need to have a compatible hard coat for anti-reflective
(A-R) coating, to what is a double-concave to what is prism-thinning.
Theres no common trend of what people dont know,
he says. Thats why they need a lab to depend on, so
they can get the best choice of lens products for each individual
prescription. This is not a sales seminar, but if I get a call from
someone wanting to use our lab, great. Because we go into how to
dispense some of the tougher prescriptions and complex lenses, they
come to us for that and then start expanding what orders they send
As a result, Kolko estimates that approximately 80 percent of the labs lens output
falls into the premium lens category, which, broadly defined, includes polycarbonate,
high-index plastic, photochromics and A-R coated lenses as well as progressives, aspherics
and other lens designs. At least 10 percent of those jobs are what might be
classified as problematic prescriptions, which means either a higher power or lots of
prism, says Kolko. These patients go to the independents more often than not,
because they can get the eyewear they need. Whats not so well known, is that they
can benefit from premium lenses too.
Surprisingly, in this age of in-office edging, 85 percent of Advances output is
complete jobs Again, its our attention to detail, says Kolko. A
lot of the premium product and tougher lenses. The dispenser doesnt want the risk of
spoiling them in their edging lab. On the other hand, especially with some of the newer
frame designs, the measurements have to be exact. The rimless and three-piece mountings
take a real knack and it helps that the lab surfacing the job will finish and mount those
this kind of expertise Advance customers applaud. If something
isnt right on the order, if the lens is not the best choice,
I get a call before it is processed, says Edelstein. They
have an unsurpassed level of knowledge and skill, and they know
I want the best for our patients.
Thats our partnership with accounts, adds Gwirtzman.
They depend on us to know the details.