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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brian McGinley’s Vision for Optix on Downer

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In August 2008, Brian McGinley and his wife, Camthu Pham, both optometrists, purchased Optix on Downer from Jack Bylan, who’d spent years building the business’ reputation as Milwaukee’s place to go for fashionable eyewear. We spoke with McGinley about the challenges involved in running a high-end eyewear boutique.

Where did you practice previously?

I still currently hold a staff position at the VA hospital in Milwaukee, allowing me to see patients and train student externs from the Illinois College of Optometry. My wife has practiced in the Chicagoland area for many years in similar eyewear boutique settings. She has a special interest in difficult contact lens fittings.

Optix on Downer has been a mainstay of the fashionable East Side for years. Were you nervous about taking over such a respected enterprise?

Yes, but also very excited to have the opportunity. We decided to keep all of the current staff, and that has allowed us to ease the transition. The staff is a big part of what makes Optix such a great place. We are also excited to be able to offer newer eye exam technology, more exam openings and many years of experience in the eye-care field to Optix.

Upscale eyewear spots have been sprouting up about town. How do you stay competitive?

Optix has always carried eyewear that is unique to Milwaukee, offering many exclusive brands and styles. We are very fortunate to have a loyal patient base that has been coming here for over 20 years. They expect a large selection of high-quality and cutting-edge products, and we plan to continue to offer that to our patients. We are blessed with great fashion consultants on staff that travel nationally and internationally to trade shows in order to bring these trends to Milwaukee.

Would a free-lancer who ordinarily gets his frames at a big-box store be able to afford anything at Optix?

We specialize in high-quality fashion eyewear, but we do have frames to fit all budgets. We also take most eye insurances as well, and many times a large portion of the eyewear or contact lenses and exam is covered.

What’s your impression of the business climate on Downer Avenue?

As I understand it, there are a lot of improvements in the works for Downer Avenue, which is great timing for us. We already have a lot of great businesses in the area, and the changes in the next couple years should really be a great attraction for new business development.

Photo by Ameilia Coffaro