After Thuy Ha, OD, had built VisionCare Optometry nearly 12 years earlier in a medical building in Elk Grove, California, and dreamt of a boutique space with more room to grow, it seemed as if the stars aligned. Dr. Ha had been thoughtfully planning, searching and waiting for a perfect location for a move for years.
Then there was COVID-19. “While we were closed down, I was asking myself, ‘Do I really need to move?’ As an unpredictable future lay ahead, she knew the risks would be worth the benefits for her patients, staff and business.
She had searched for space that would provide her with greater visibility. One space she considered had been an optical earlier, “but it did not meet the growth potential and expectations” she had. Then she found an available location in a retail area surrounded by shops and restaurants. The space, which once was a used book store, provides room for two exam lanes, a staff break room and a lab. She also now has a room dedicated to contact lenses and solutions.
The renovation process took just shy of eight months from start to finish, and the practice opened officially on June 11, 2020. Since the new location was less than a five-minute drive from the old one, it was easy for her to watch progress and make the final move. “I worked three days in the old location on our last week, and then we shut down on Thursday and Friday,” she says. Movers came in to move the heavy equipment and set it up in the new space. She found used exam lane equipment to outfit the second lane. Then she spent Friday in the old office, cleaning, organizing and packing. On Saturday, her entire family showed up, ready to pitch in to move the last items and arrange the new location.
The fact that the two spaces are so close is helpful in scheduling, too. “I knew that when I moved I wasn’t going to move far,” she says. “I have patients who call and say ‘Oh no, I went to the old place’ [and I say] ‘Well, come over—there’s time.’”
IN WITH THE NEW
Inspired by photos from boutique shops with bright, airy spaces and colors, Dr. Ha had visions for the design of the new space from the get-go. In her old practice space, she had traditional frameboards showcasing rows and rows of similar eyeglasses. However, her new practice features fewer eyeglasses placed on stands and shelves, making them easily accessible for patients. The display cabinets surround the two side of walls, allowing a layout that patients can browse through eyewear more freely. She chose a serene color scheme—gray walls and white tall cabinets—Dr. Ha and her patients find the space calm and inviting.
She made some of her priorities clear to her builders: hardwood floors and bright lighting to illuminate the frames. “It’s an office I want to be in; I like coming in,” says Dr. Ha. “The flow is good.”
THE COVID-19 WRINKLE
A global pandemic befalling the world was not in the original remodeling plan for Dr. Ha, and when many of her building projects or orders got pushed back too far for her opening date, she had to think on her feet. She contacted a local cabinet builder, who worked with her to design cabinets and her front desk.
One of the most clever adaptations to have come out of rolling with the pandemic punches is a sneeze guard that Dr. Ha’s husband built for her front desk—a large pair of eyeglasses. She had seen the photo on WO’s Facebook page and showed it to her husband. He ran with the idea.
While the original plan was to take walk-ins, coronavirus has prevented them from doing so—for now. To be able to control the number of people in the space at once, they are currently operating by appointment only. Between the new space and the existing patient base ready to support her, Dr. Ha is feeling optimistic. “It’s so nice—especially during this COVID time. I’m going strong.”