When Lindsay Schafer, OD, graduated from Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry (NSUCO) in 2010, she moved back home to Goldsboro, North Carolina, and joined her stepfather, Gibson Blackman, OD, in practice. Dr. Blackman founded Atlantic Eye Center Optometric Services in the early 1990s, after having worked in other locations in the area for years. By the time Dr. Schafer joined him in his thriving business, it had been in its location for about a decade.
Dr. Schafer says she began to realize that space was an issue for two ODs and a growing volume of patients. She began weighing her options for the space, knowing that she’d want to address the issue when she would buy the practice, which was the plan. She wanted a practice that would accommodate two doctors still, as her future husband, Ken Statsick, OD, was still working in a Target Optical in Clearwater, Florida. The two were lab partners at NSUCO, and after some long-distance dating, they got engaged. Dr. Statsick made the move to Goldsboro and opened an office in a Walmart in Garner, as they waited to purchase the practice from Dr. Blackman.
Even before the purchase went through, she began looking around. She first viewed the practice’s future home, a large property with a building of about 9,000 square feet, in 2014. The building had been vacant for years after a plan to renovate it was put on hold when the economy dipped in 2007. “The asking price was a little wild,” Dr. Schafer recalls.
Dr. Schafer and Dr. Statsick bought the practice from Dr. Blackman in 2015, and welcomed their first child two months later. They decided to look at the vacant building again. “We began entertaining the idea,” she says. It was just 500 yards from their existing office, which was a definite benefit and would allow them to stay along the main streets of town. The building was being considered as an office for a 911 call center, but that proposal fell through, and the doctors were able to purchase and close on the space in April 2016. “The stars aligned with this building around the corner. It was a big renovation project that has been a real positive experience for us,” Dr. Schafer says.
Over the next five months, as Dr. Schafer and Dr. Statsick scoured over the details and fine-tuned their plans for demolition and renovation. Eager to get started, they were frustrated by some delay, but in retrospect, taking their time and revising on paper was smart. “I don’t feel we have any regrets.” They determined that 5,000 square feet was plenty, and the remaining space has been turned into two office rentals. A 1,200-square-foot office is rented to a high-end salon, and a 2,500-square-foot space is outfitted with offices and conference rooms and ready for a tenant. “The objective is to bring a lot of commodities that Goldsboro needs to the area,” Dr. Schafer says.
Dr. Schafer’s top goal in her new office design was improving office flow. “After practicing in a small office, you learn where a lot of your bottlenecks and inefficiencies can come from. That affects patient care and the bottom line.” Her main goal in designing the new space was to eliminate those disruptions. “It was a priority that would improve efficiency and patient comfort.” Dr. Schafer and Dr. Statsick spent hours working on a design that would meet their needs: six exam lanes, rather than the three that were in the earlier office); and areas for pretesting and special testing, which had been together in the former location.
The open floor plan creates an inviting environment, with the exam rooms off a hallway for privacy. “Between the foyer, optical and reception, there aren’t any walls,” Dr. Schafer says. “It’s open and airy, and you don’t feel boxed in.”
By August, they began construction. During the planning months, Dr. Schafer was able to perfect her vision for the style and design of the office. “The luxury of having time was that I could find décor that would be cohesive throughout the space. I didn’t need to fill it quickly, which can lead to impulsive decisions,” she says. “I wanted to bring something very fresh to the area in terms of style; it’s a certain look that this area didn’t have.” The look is modern in décor and motif, and it definitely won’t remind you of a house, she adds. Yet the space is still very serene and relaxing. Dr. Schafer chose flooring in sandy shades and the walls incorporate white, a light blue and a deep teal to create this tranquil environment and also pay homage to the Atlantic Ocean and the practice’s name.
The optical has the feel of a high-end boutique and jewelry store, a nod to the roots of opticianry, with sparkling chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. “We wanted everything to look clean and displays with glass countertops and storage underneath with neat presentation of the products.”
In January, the doctors opened the doors to the new home to Atlantic Eye Center Optometric Services, after making the move over a long weekend. “When we purchased the business, the space gave the impression that we were practicing on a smaller scale,” Dr. Schafer says. Now they feel their office represents the quality of care they aim to provide. And with this project behind them, Dr. Statsick and Dr. Schafer move on to the next—awaiting the arrival of their second child in June.