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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Becoming an optician is a combination of on the job training and study. Our new opticians learn about visual disorders, the physics of lenses and the variety of progressive lens designs from texts and webinars at the same time as they work with patients and apply this knowledge. The combined approach is really important and results in a lot of “a-ha!” moments. The opticians in training listen to a patient’s past experience and might be able to solve problems because of a webinar on freeform progressive lenses. It is great to watch this new crew learn on the way to becoming highly trained professional opticians!
We are thankful for many wonderful resources the opticians in training are using including:
ECP Advantage from Walman Optical – on demand and live webinars from the optician training department at Walman Optical.
Our product partners including Lauren from Shamir, Addie from l.a. Eyeworks and Feb31st eyewear, Ciara from Lafont, and many more!
The part-time veteran opticians who provide in person training a few times each week – Jill and Margaret!
With strong attention to detail, a desire to learn, and a natural focus on problem-solving customer service – our three new opticians are in just a few months becoming amazing opticians. Becoming a licensed optician is a three year process. The requirements include 6,000 hours of job hours and passing two board certification tests, ABO and NCLE*. We’re excited to support the opticians in training in this goal as they help patients achieve the best vision in their glasses on the way!
*American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examination
In our not-so-biased opinion – being an optician is one of the coolest jobs. Helping people to see by working with a patient to fill glasses prescriptions is incredibly rewarding. We are so excited to watch our new optician apprentices embark on this journey.
Heather and Jordan both come from strong customer service backgrounds. Being able to listen and help meet patient’s needs is critical for this role. With that foundation, they are working on adding the technical components of the job. These include:
Incoming quality inspection of all glasses orders
Repairing and adjusting glasses for patients
Understanding all the lenses, lens materials, and lens treatment option
Understanding the components of frames and which work well for different prescriptions and faces
Taking measurements for patient’s glasses
Entering orders and working with the lab who makes all our lenses.
Proper measurement for a pupillary distance is a critical part of making glasses! We have a small tolerance for error because we have seen patients experience unintended distortion and discomfort with glasses made to the wrong pupillary distance. Our optician apprentices practice taking the pupillary distance for the entire staff and compare to the measurements from our experienced opticians. We troubleshoot technique until they are repeatably and accurately taking the measurements!
This is a fun journey we look forward to sharing with you! If you come in the office in the next few months, you may work with one of our optician apprentices as they are still shadowing or in training. Thank you for your patience as we place a high value on training our opticians to help you find the best frames and lenses possible!
You are invited to the Garrett Leight x Binyon Vision Center Trunk Show!
Please join us for a special opportunity to see the Garrett Leight California Optical collection in its entirety – all optical frames, all sun frames, all colors.
Garrett Leight California Optical represents a new generation of eyewear inspired by classic designs and California culture. The response at Binyon has been overwhelming since we started carrying the line in June of this year. The classically tailored frames appeal across all generations. We’ve seen a 80 year old man and a 24 year old woman select the same frame! From the family that created Oliver People- GLCO makes beautiful eyewear the right way- with high quality materials and fine craftsmanship.
Join us as we welcome Mr. Brett Cates from GLCO with the entire collection – all frames and all colors. Feel free to browse the website www.garrettleight.com to get a feel for the selection and come in November 26th between 10-4 to try any of these frames on for yourself! Don’t miss the sunglasses selection – it is amazing.
All first pair lenses purchased with GLCO frame will be 20% off. Any second pair purchase of GLCO will have lenses discounted 30% off!
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.
In a previous post, we focused on how the lenses in online glasses could present vision and safety problems. We return to this topic of comparisons by focusing on the frames first…
Reasons 4 – 7 to NOT buy Glasses Online…
4. How long do you wear shoes that don’t fit right?
If you’re a long time glasses wearer you might know what we mean here… A poorly fitting pair of glasses can really ruin your day. You’re constantly pushing them up your
nose, your head feels like it’s in a vice or where it curves behind your ears seems to hit a pressure point that is aching by the end of the day.
It is obvious that you wouldn’t know about any fit issues unless you try the glasses on. Some online companies allow you to do that- which helps. However, a few minutes on your face doesn’t necessarily equal a full 16 hour day of wearing the glasses with your lenses (which are heavier than the demo lenses). The shoes felt so comfortable in the store when I tried them on…
We’d like to strongly advocate having a professional optician who is trained to see and explain any fit issues help you find something that fits comfortably!
Speaking of opticians- they are also trained to adjust glasses. While they help you find the proper pair of glasses they are evaluating whether or not it’s possible to make adjustments to the frame to make it more comfortable or not- in some instances it’s not. With a plastic bridge without nose pads (fixed bridge) – if it slides down your nose- it will always slide down your nose- there’s nothing that can be adjusted to prevent that. However- if it bugs you where it’s sitting behind your ear? Or is it sitting crooked because gasp! your ears are slightly asymmetrical (don’t worry that’s 99% of the population). An optician is here to help.
An ill-fitting frame can really cause a lot of problems. Headaches, fatigue, red marks on your skin due to imbalanced weight of a frame on your nose… there are many well made glasses out there that will fit your face well and comfortably saving you lots of grief.
5. Just a slight adjustment = sweet relief
On the topic of frame fittings… nothing stresses a trained optician more than adjusting low quality frames. Inexpensive materials used to make inexpensive frames do not cooperate well and often lose form soon after an adjustment because of the shortcuts made in the manufacturing process to keep costs down.
Please consider this friendly warning- you might be beating a regular path to the optician’s chair for adjustments with online glasses.
The way glasses sit on your head can not only affect comfort, but vision as well. Especially with progressive lenses, even the slightest adjustment can bring you into or out of focus. Having a licensed optician dispense glasses they ordered for you with the proper measurements and adjust to your maximum vision potential and comfort leads to a successful glasses-patient relationship. Happy eyes = Happy day! Well, maybe not but I promise you- unhappy eyes can really ruin your day!
6. What’s the warranty?
The online glasses retailers who carry many name brands often do not have a relationship with the manufacturer themselves and cannot rely on the service and warranty available from the manufacturer. In fact, many of the name-brand frames you find online at low prices are discontinued models. Depending on the manufacturer, the lifetime for a glasses frame model may be 3-4 years on average.
When a frame is out of production- if the temple breaks, nosepad arm falls off, lenses get a scratch, unfortunately you’re looking at buying another pair of glasses.
What happens if the prescription isn’t working for you? You might go in to see your optometrist again and find out the prescription numbers were not exactly right for your purpose… is there an option to have your glasses remade? The relief of a patient satisfaction policy and warranty against damaged frames and lenses for a valuable medical device that helps you… see… is absolutely worth it.
7. All Anti-Reflective Coatings are not created equal
There are two types of people in the world – those who love anti-reflective coating and those who hate it. And you can spot the glaring difference a mile away.
A great anti-reflective coating provides many benefits – glare from light sources are all around us. Shine that glare through an uncoated lens and it bounces around the lens- creating reflections. When an anti-reflective coating is properly applied the light passes through the lens into your eye instead of staying in the lens and bouncing around. This does two great things. It allows you to see better, clearer even because you’re not competing with glare. And, you’re seeing the full picture. Second the lenses look better. You don’t see the glare and neither does the world looking at you! They get to see your eyes- instead of a lens full of glare.
However- applying this coating to a lens is a complicated process! It is necessary that the coating applies onto a certified clean chamber. Any dust that’s on the lens before it’s coated creates a flaw. That flaw can grow and grow into a cloudy lens that just won’t ever feel clean. Have you had non-glare coating like that? It might be a bad enough experience to put you in the hate crowd.
We’d encourage you to give anti-reflective coating another chance- from a store that can educate you about the quality of their coatings. And has a warranty against scratches and damage to back up their quality claims.
Thank you for bearing with us for this discussion on a topic we’re passionate about. And, for helping the glasses wearing community understand their options in eyewear and providing reasons why online glasses are not the best choice. If you have any questions- feel free to email us! We’d be happy to respond in a future blog post. Thank you again and best wishes for happy eyes!
BINYON VISION CENTER
411 E. Magnolia Street, Bellingham WA 98225