I’ll never forget when one of our opticians at the time, Christie, returned from a Vision Expo conference in 2013 and said- “You won’t believe these wood glasses. There’s an Italian company that figured out how to put prescription lenses in wood glasses and they custom make every frame with wood layers and you pick the colors. We could be one of the first in the United States to carry this line.”
Ten years later… a rough count of shops on the www.feb31st.it website shows over 130 stores in the United States and a few hundred Binyon patients have worn or do wear Feb31st frames.
Bespoke Eyewear – manufactured to order!
In addition to a cool concept – a design that allows for manufacturing a one-off custom pair of prescription wood glasses, this company is always innovating. They’ve created a more robust product over the years by changing hinge designs and reinforcing the layers of wood. Many new wood finishes and material combinations have also been introduced into the product line, allowing for infinite customization possibilities. One of the most unique and rewarding features is the custom engraving possibilities on the temples of the frames. Dates, initials, symbols are all examples of amazing designs we’ve seen created on the wood glasses.
Sustainable manufacturing from tree to glasses
In addition to the uniqueness of design and manufacturing, we want to highlight another vital part of this company – it’s dedication to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. All wood is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified for being sustainably forested. Every frame produced is made to order therefore eliminating waste in stocked inventory. There is also an opportunity to use a wood from fallen trees, mostly from unusual hurricane force winds that hit the Northern Italian Alps in October 2018. If there is an opportunity to improve sustainability or manufacture in a more eco-friendly way, this company will act.
Feb31st at Binyon Vision Center today
Over the years, the Binyon team has loved designing Feb31st frames for our inventory and has held design appointments on special days with our patients interested in designing their own pair. With a variety of shapes, so many colors and size possibilities the customization options are endless. In addition, some of the frame models in the EVO line incorporate metal, which comes in many colors for a unique spin on the wood glasses- plus the engraving option mentioned above. This design your own eyewear option that this unique made to order company provides through it’s wood glasses is amazing. Another important benefit of Feb31st eyewear is they are very light and comfortable to wear. For some of us four-eyes, these are our most comfortable pair of glasses. We had a patient who was very sensitive to metals and plastics and found these to be the only glasses she could wear! Here are a few of our other favorite Feb31st designs. We hope to see you in the office soon to design your own!
Please note – our next opportunity to design a pair of Feb31st glasses is October 19th, 2023 – email email@example.com to schedule an appointment!
Binyon Optical Company was founded in 1911 in Seattle then quickly expanded across Washington
Dr. James R. Binyon opened the first Binyon Optical Company in 1911 on First Avenue in Seattle. He went on to open several other offices in Everett, Tacoma, Spokane, Richland, Yakima, Bremerton and Bellingham, which opened in 1934. At one time, it was estimated one of every three Washington families wore glasses dispensed by Binyon Optometrists. Binyon optometrists and opticians were trained to be masters of their craft- providing an excellence in glasses and service not found elsewhere. Today there are three remaining operating clinics with the Binyon name in Bellingham, Burien and Seattle, each operating independently.
Binyon Optical- a presence in downtown Bellingham since the 1930’s
The Binyon office in Bellingham has always operated out of downtown- on Holly, Cornwall, Railroad Avenue and since 1993 on the corner of Garden and Magnolia Street. The Holly Street storefront opened in 1934 with Dr. J. H. Peterson practicing. The office moved to Cornwall Avenue in 1947. In 1951, Dr. Binyon’s nephew Dr. LeRoy Freeman moved to up to practice in the Bellingham office. Binyon made another downtown move to the corner of Railroad and Magnolia Street in 1974. Dr. Terrence Hansen joined Binyon Optometrists as an associate during that time. In 1980, Dr. Mark McEathron joined the practice. When Dr. Freeman passed away in 1985, Dr. McEathron, who was a partner at that time became the sole owner. In 1992, the office moved three blocks east on Magnolia into the former Pietro’s Pizza restaurant. This location offers over 1,000 square feet dedicated to frames displays and off-street parking. In 2019, Dr. Heather LeClaire joined Binyon Vision Center as an associate. After two years, she purchased the practice from Dr. McEathron, making her the first woman owner.
American History through Binyon Newspaper Advertisements
We have a unique opportunity to look at a business- in this case an optometrist office that provides eye exams and glasses- through the eyes of its newspaper advertisements. While today we have instant access to an internet search of “Bellingham optometrist,” even as recently as the 1990’s, newspaper marketing was vital for being seen by prospective and returning patients.
The Bellingham Herald was founded in 1890 as the Fairhaven Herald, and after a few mergers (just like our city), was renamed the Bellingham Herald in 1903. An amazing online resource – newspapers.com is the largest online newspaper archive – containing archives back to the 1770’s from over 23,900 newspapers including the Bellingham Herald. A search for “Binyon” in the Bellingham Herald brought up advertisements and press releases going back to the 1930’s. The creativity and current event references in these advertisements are a peek into marketing, US history, optometry, and downtown Bellingham. Here is a breakdown by decade of the historical advertisements for Binyon in the Bellingham Herald.
Bellingham Herald Advertisements from the 1930’s
During the 1930’s, years of depression and economic hardship for the United States and Bellingham, Binyon advertisements focused on the importance of eye exams and subtly hinted at the stress on Bellingham resident’s finances. “We do not prescribe glasses unless absolutely necessary” appears in a few adverts.
An emphasis on the science of visual defects, having skilled, registered optometrists, and modernized equipment highlights eye health and vision as an important part of overall health and establishing credibility in the health profession.
An often repeated slogan is “Binyonize Your Eyes,” and by this point, Binyon Opticals had been operating for 20 years in other locations and had gained a healthy reputation for quality and service.
Bellingham Herald Advertisements from the 1940’s
In the early 1940’s the themes of the past decade’s advertisements continued – “Your Eyes Deserve the Best” and “Truly Friendly Service” are notable phrases the company used to distinguish itself. The advertisements include higher quality artwork and reference the entire chain of Binyon plus wisely pointing out the doctor’s name and address for the Bellingham location.
When the United States entered WWII, you see a definite shift in the messaging to relate the importance of having good vision to help the country’s wartime effort. It is fascinating to see the connection of one of the key times in US History to a local optometry’s advertisements. Visual efficiency is even called a patriotic duty and essential to help with wartime production. To note, the Bellingham Shipyard was the largest privately owned shipyard in the US in the 1940’s. They produced minesweepers during the war for the United States Navy.
Other interesting additions in the 1940’s ads are the discussion of children’s vision and its effect on school work:
When the war ends, the advertisements go back to focusing on quality and service. One ad shows the proper steps to taking care of glasses. Binyon advertisements give solid advice for getting the most out of your glasses, the last step being to visit a quality optometrist for adjustments and new glasses when necessary.
The quality of glasses is a frequent theme in advertisements, including the importance of taking proper measurements and lens manufacturing. This is also an introduction to the “look” of glasses – the idea they can make you look younger and have style.
Like we see every November on social media – there is an advertisement posted to remember to vote.
There are also lifestyle advertisements in the later 1940’s – addressing specific tasks and their visual needs and how Binyon glasses can help address. “Enjoy Good Vision… Enjoy Sports More” is one tagline.
In 1947, the office moved to a new location, announced with a press release and a change in logo in some of the proceeding advertisements.
Stay tuned for advertisements from the 1950 – 2000!
The advertisements from the Bellingham Herald by Binyon Optical Company in the 1930’s and 1940’s are an extensive walk through this important time period, in the most used medium of the day. There are five more decades to cover, with the newspaper advertisements becoming less each decade as other forms of marketing emerge. Stay tuned for the additional treasures to come in next month’s blog post!
“I’ve always thought that if you have to wear glasses you should go big and choose beautiful, fun, or funky ones. You can’t hide them so why not show them off,”
She has been a fellow four-eyed friend since
the seventh grade. Her mom always made sure that she had cool glasses, so she’s
been keen on stylish specs since she was a kiddo.
“I’ve always thought that if you have to wear
glasses you should go big and choose beautiful, fun, or funky ones. You can’t
hide them so why not show them off,” she remarks.
This sentiment is reflected in Michelle’s
frames of choice at Binyon. Sporting the ever-present and spunky Anne at
Valentin or her favorite cat eye Lafont frames, Michelle can be spotted
receiving compliments all around town. With a prescription as strong as hers,
Michelle delights in the opportunity to wear contacts as well as the prospect
of corrective surgery. However, she revels in what her frames can offer her,
too. As an introvert, she has been given many opportunities to meet people she
otherwise would not have.
“I get compliments about my glasses all the
time from all different kinds of people. I’m introverted so don’t often go out
of my way to make connections with strangers. The compliments are a sweet way
to connect with a person I may not have chatted with otherwise. The compliments
also make me feel like I’ve made the right choice in the frames I’ve chosen.
Sometimes I second guess myself and then the first time someone tells me they
like my glasses I know the choice was a good one.”
Michelle is a loyal Binyonite, and we
couldn’t be happier to continue working with her. Describing her relationship
with her glasses in five words or less, Michelle states, “they make me look
Thank you for choosing us, Michelle, and you look fantastic!
When I contacted Shelly Clark about photographing her family for the latest “Glasses of Binyon” blog she responded- “Could we meet at Whatcom Falls Park? We kind of live right in the park.” I thought that might mean on the road leading into the park but as Kevin works for the Department of Fishery for Washington State- they literally live in the park. It was a joy to watch the family in their backyard and picture the kids growing up in one of Bellingham’s most beautiful parks. Kevin, Shelly, Chester and June have been patients of Dr. McEathron’s for many years and they each have unique and interesting stories about their journey with their glasses.
Let’s start with Chester.
Shelly tells me he’s worn glasses for as long as she can remember. His first eye exam was when he was four years old- with concerns of family history of nearsightedness. Shelly remembers this appointment vividly- that Dr. McEathron kindly recommended they try again the following year when Chester knew more letters. He received his first pair of glasses the next year and Shelly comments that he’s always taken very good care of his glasses- probably because he’s “blind as a bat” without them. His high astigmatism doesn’t make him a great candidate for contact lenses- but he wears glasses well and appreciates the help from the opticians to find him a great fitting pair that is stylish.
Shelly was also proactive with an early eye exam for daughter, June.
When she was 5 she sat in Mom’s lap for her first eye exam. The next few years she came in for regular checks- but Dr. McEathron found no need for glasses. As 3rd grade rolled around, some reading struggles were noted. We made some reading glasses, but Dr. McEathron also recommended a consultation for vision therapy. June now sees Dr. Bearden at Optometric Physicians Northwest to help with excessive convergence. She wears her reading glasses for close work but with the improvement she’s seeing in vision therapy, she might not need them for much longer.
Shelly recalls Kevin coming home with his first pair of glasses in 2012 and being amazed…
at what he had been missing out on because he couldn’t see! He spends a lot of time outdoors- so he tried Transitions darkening lenses but didn’t like the amount of time it took for them to change back to clear- so he invested in his first prescription sunglasses made by Maui Jim. He describes those as the ultimate treat- and necessary for his work around bodies of water to be able to see clearly through the glare.
I saved my favorite story for last!
Shelly was very nearsighted and had Lasik performed in 2010 and was glasses free for 4 years after wearing them since she was a little girl. She remembers the news that she would need glasses again as being disappointing – “It’s because I’m getting older right?” she asked Dr. McEathron. “Well, it’s because you keep having birthdays,” explained Dr. M. Shelly loves how he took her negative and turned it into a positive. She says she’s fine wearing them now and even likes them! When she lost her glasses she got the same frame in another color. This was smart because she found the lost glasses again and now has two very cute similar but different color frames!
It was a fun adventure to get to know this family better in their beautiful back yard and hear about their unique glasses experiences. A special thank you to Shelly, Kevin, Chester and June for sharing their glasses stories and to Katheryn Moran of Katheryn Moran Photography for taking this awesome family’s pictures!
“Just wanted to let you know how great my Ovvo glasses are…”
… began an email from Emily. “Several months ago, my toddler snatched them off my face and bent them in HALF. Besides a small crease, the frames were unharmed and I’m wearing them daily. But we had a long talk about how fragile (most) glasses are.”
Emily was referencing her 2nd out of 3 pairs of Ovvo Optics glasses frames. She found her first pair in 2015, soon after her precious son Raylan was born. Little did she know as a new mom she was making a wise investment in the most durable glasses frames.
Ovvo Optics Glasses Design and Technology
What drew Emily to the Ovvo frames was how light and comfortable they are – plus fun shapes and colors. These are two of Ovvo’s design goals for their frame line – the third was durability. In seeking a material that was very lightweight and strong, the company could not find one that met their needs- so they forged their own metal, a combination of surgical stainless steel and titanium that had not been made before and is now manufactured with a patented process by Ovvo (more technical details here: https://ovvooptics.com/technology/).
This hypoallergenic material offers remarkable lightness, flex memory and strength. From an optician’s standpoint the strong material is tough to move during an adjustment but we have confidence when we get it into position- it will stay there- preventing the relaxing that can happen with plastic frames. I like to joke it’s the only pair of glasses I can fall asleep in and they aren’t at all crooked in the morning.
Emily’s hooked on Ovvo glasses
Back to Emily – she’s on her 3rd pair of Ovvo frames now as Raylan just passed his 3rd birthday. Coincidence? Probably not… toddler proof? Definitely, as her story above shows.
When we sat down to pick her second pair in December of 2017- she said, definitely Ovvo. We found one of the great pairs from the latest collection that incorporates a cut-out design, one of the latest eyewear trends. She loved them, and when I pulled out the catalog to see the other colors, she fell deeper in love with the Sapphire color. We ordered it in but started the lenses using the stock frame. When the lenses came back she could choose between the two colors. I love giving patients this option – they have two choices of frame color to pick from when they come to pick up their lenses and we can pop the completed lenses
into the favorites and they are on their way- looking amazing of course.
Don’t forget sunglasses!
Since I had the catalog out as we were looking at alternate colors- Emily started to look at their amazing sunglasses options. I noticed she has an awesome insurance plan through the local credit union she works for and her insurance would be available again in January – mere weeks away. She got a little giddy at the idea of having prescription Ovvo sunglasses. I’d remembered seeing an awesome design at an Ovvo trunk show we had done and showed her the catalog. “That’s the one!” she cried and we ordered it in in Shiny red! When she came to pick up her new glasses and choose the color, the sunglasses had arrived! We were able to make the frame measurements, wait until the calendar flipped to 2018 and order these beautiful sunglasses.
Emily, Raylan and I had a marvelous photoshoot with the talented Katheryn Moran of Katheryn Moran Photography to highlight these wonderful frames. It was fun to watch Mommy and son share such natural tender moments. We are glad to see that these frames have become a beautiful part of her look and an indispensable tool in her mommy bag. With all the things the Mama’s have to worry about- broken glasses can be crossed off the list with Ovvo eyewear.
When the kids and I walked into Galbraith Mountain Pediatric Dentistry office for the first time, I was understandably nervous. The three year old wore her tiara and lugged along her stuffed elephant (named Sugar- great choice for going to the dentist) and the one year old is always unpredictable, because he’s one. As new patients we were brought into a big room with an exam chair, and several bins of toys – mostly stuffed animals all outfitted with huge sets of teeth and giant toothbrushes. A woman with cute glasses and a kind face entered the room and introduced herself as Susan, the dental assistant who would help us out on our first visit.
I noticed her glasses right away
Susan made sure the kids knew they could play with the toys in the room and explained this first visit is all about making sure they feel comfortable.
We sat down to look over the paperwork I filled out. I answered a few questions then she said- “Oh! I see you work at Binyon, I’ve been seeing Mark for years!” (True story – I found her initial patient paperwork dated April 1992.)
“I wondered!” I answered, “I recognized your Lafont frames! And these are Mark’s grandkids!”
“Too funny!” she replied, “That must make you Caitlin, I’ve known you since you were a kid!” Before Susan worked at Galbraith, she worked for Dr. Richard Todd’s office where I’d been a patient growing up. My memory went back to a tall, energetic woman with short brown hair that would call us back to the exam rooms and we laughed at the connection in our small Bellingham world. Her hair is a beautiful silver now and her energy and smile are just as I remember.
Then it was her turn to come to the doctor!
A few months after our re-acquaintance at the dentist, Susan came in for her eye exam and was planning on updating the lenses into her current Lafont frames to her new prescription.
“You know I love fun glasses… Do you have anything new?” she asked. I couldn’t wait to show her the new Anne et Valentin collection – bold looks with many petite options that I knew fit her style perfectly. I grabbed a light pink frame and said, “This one.” She put it on… and couldn’t take it off. “Yes- this one.”
Later we came to photograph Susan in her element- helping kids at the dentist. She explained she doesn’t always wear these new frames to work – she had a collision with another employee a few months ago which sent her glasses flying and we ended up repairing a broken temple. She has several pairs of fun glasses and she tells me, “If you have to wear glasses, make it a part of your wardrobe! You need different frames and lenses for different needs and outfits.”