When Dr. Charles Glaser first conceived of creating a coalition of optometrists 25 years ago, it wasn't because he sensed a desperate need for eye doctors in the New Orleans community. Rather, his commitment to study the science of sight was so great that it seemed his career path couldn't lead anywhere else. "I've never met anyone who was so passionate about their field, or who had such a strong interest in every single aspect of the industry," says Chris Yarbrough, a colleague of Glaser's and manager and buyer of the Uptown branch of St. Charles Vision (citywide; www.stcharlesvision.com). Glaser's singular purpose has served him well: What began as a small solo practice has now grown to seven locations sprinkled throughout the greater New Orleans area, three of which he owns. The company's locations serve as a one-stop shop for all things vision-related, from eyeglass-fitting to disease diagnosis to dry-eye relief. "We do everything short of surgery," Yarbrough says.
Prada, Paul Smith and conjunctivitis don't often find themselves in the same sentence, let alone the same building — but that's exactly what makes St. Charles Vision unique. Glaser's passion for every aspect of optometry led him to form a business that's part stylish sun- and eyeglasses boutique, part doctor's office and part laboratory, where the latest eyewear fashions share space with the newest optometric advancements. Yarbrough frequently accompanies Glaser to both trade and technology shows in New York: "He focuses on finding the most cutting-edge lab equipment and seeing what new research is out there," Yarbrough says, laughing. "I spend my time looking for new shades."
St. Charles Vision keeps an eye on both fashion and medical trends. On the scientific side, Yarbrough has noticed an increased focus within the eye care industry on patients who have struggled with contacts due to factors like dryness, uncommon eye shape, extremity of vision, or astigmatism. St. Charles Vision now employs new lens-fitting technology so these patients can wear contacts comfortably. Yarbrough is warily awaiting Mardi Gras season, when the practice treats a host of people with injuries sustained from renegade parade beads — "Only here," he says wryly. Regarding fashion trends, he touts St. Charles Vision as the local destination for distinctive eyewear. "We try to carry something for everyone, but our focus is definitely high-end," he notes. "Geek chic" is still a prevalent trend, he reports, along with the emergence of lightweight, thin metal frames in bright color combinations that conform to the popular oversized look but have less bulk.
With locations everywhere from Marrero to Mandeville, the company is running out of room to expand — and that's fine for now, says Yarbrough, who describes Glaser as "more than satisfied" with how his vision and St. Charles Vision have sustained one another through the years. Looking toward the future, Yarbrough expects the continued education and evolution of the organization's physicians, with "new techniques, new classes and new technologies ... to stay ahead of the curve."
A customer is all smiles as she is fitted for glasses at St. Charles Vision.
Photo by Cheryl Gerber