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Gone in a blink: Slope optical business closes after 27 years in nabe

Sad sight: Visions of Park Slope was forced to close after 27 years due to stiff competition from online and national competitors.
Brooklyn Paper
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These eyes are closed.

The owners of a Park Slope mom-and-pop optical shop shut the spot down last month after losing too many customers to online and chain retailers they claimed snagged their clients without providing the type of quality service the local operation provided during its nearly three-decade run.

“They don’t know what they’re doing, they don’t fit you the right way,” said Robert Zimmerman. “Here, we gave you service, and I charged a little more.”

Zimmerman and his brother Stuart opened their Visions of Park Slope boutique at 180 Lincoln Pl. in 1991, bringing his wife, an optometrist, on board to hand out its first prescriptions while she was pregnant with their first daughter, he said.

“It was a real mom-and-pop operation,” the co-founder said.

The eyeglass entrepreneurs prided themselves on their customer relations, which Zimmerman claimed left patrons with better-looking and better-fitting frames than that of their competitors, but their personal touch couldn’t compete with the growing number of online retailers that let clients shop for frames and contact lenses without leaving their living rooms — even when the local shop found ways to offer the same products at an equal price, he said.

“I would finagle a way to get it to them for the same price, and they would still get it from them, because they’re sitting at home, just clicking away,” Zimmerman said.

But spectacle stores aren’t the only local small businesses in trouble, according to Zimmerman, who said Park Slope’s once-bustling Seventh Avenue is now littered with darkened storefronts where entrepreneurs failed to make ends meet.

“When we moved into the neighborhood there wasn’t one open spot on Seventh Avenue to be had,” he said. “Now there’s one on every block.”

Indeed, Visions of Park Slope’s Sept. 20 closing came days before the owners of Tex-Mex restaurant Santa Fe Grill closed the eatery at 62 Seventh. Ave. on Sept. 28 following a 34-year run, and months after the proprietor of Seventh Avenue health-food emporium Back to the Land sold his last supplement earlier this year after nearly half a century in business.

And last year, the owner of Dizzy’s Diner closed its nearby Fifth Avenue outpost he opened in 2012, claiming the second location drew too many customers away from the eatery’s Ninth Street flagship.

Many patrons congratulated Zimmerman on his 27-year run, he said, but the plaudits have yet to soothe his lingering pain over calling it quits.

“Some people asked, ‘How’d you do it for 27 years?’ and others said, ‘If you’re in business for a year, you’re lucky,’ ” Zimmerman said. “But I feel like I failed.”

Former Visions of Park Slope clients can collect their records and prescriptions at Urban Optical [326 Seventh Ave. between Eighth and Ninth streets in Park Slope, (718) 832–3513, www.urbanoptical.com].

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 2:40 pm, October 3, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Janet from Park Slope says:
Although I never patronized Visions, I resent the suggestion that my neighbors and I shop online because we're lazy. It's my observation that independent opticians (and pharmacists) maintain limited hours--closing early and rarely open on Sundays--and require customers to wait when they do manage to arrive when the business is open. It's not just about online shopping being cheaper. The restaurants and other businesses complaining about lack of patronage should look at their prices and business practices rather than blaming the customer.
Oct. 4, 2018, 3:59 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
No, you shop online because you are cheap and hate your neighbors that are trying to make a living. Ordering online just makes it so much easier to never interact with the people you think are local mooks.
Oct. 4, 2018, 8:50 pm
Tyler from pps says:
This isn't a matter of being lazy or being cheap.
Oct. 5, 2018, 9:22 am
Tyler from pps says:
I am very happy and take extra effort to shop at local businesses, but we're not talking about, say, a 20 percent difference in price.
Oct. 5, 2018, 9:23 am
Tyler from pps says:
I can buy a pare of complete frames online, with excellent customer service, mind you, for 100 dollars. The same frames would be 300 dollars or more at a typical optician.
Oct. 5, 2018, 9:24 am
Tyler from pps says:
Yeah, the shops are beholden to an evil monopoly that supplies something like 90 percent of all brands at an insane profit margin.
Oct. 5, 2018, 9:24 am
Tyler from pps says:
That is the problem and the cause of customers going elsewhere.
Oct. 5, 2018, 9:24 am
Tyler from pps says:
(Apparently, the weird Brooklyn Paper 'filter' only lets me post one sentence at a time?)
Oct. 5, 2018, 9:26 am
Alexis says:
This store sucked, good riddance.
Oct. 5, 2018, 4:44 pm
david from park slope says:
Apparently small businesses, such as property owners, aren't immune either. Visions beat their landlord out of rent, as they had done in prior locations, and were evicted legally for non-payment by a NYC Marshal. Self-righteous drivel from poor businessmen.
Jan. 7, 4:58 pm

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