France's Optical Center Enters Canada with 3 Locations

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By Mario Toneguzzi

Optical Center, an eye and hearing care store, is geared for big future expansion after opening three locations in the past year in the Montreal area.

Benjamin Blaise, director of development for the company in Quebec, says Optical Center is a company based in France with the first store opening in 1991. The company currently has 522 stores in seven countries - 90 per cent of them in France. The others are in Spain, Turkey, Switzerland, Belgium, Israel and now Canada.

The company plans to grow more locations in Quebec.

“We want to open a lot of stores - to franchise the concept of Optical Center,” says Blaise. “Right now we don’t have a good number to know how many stores will open. We want to make good on these three stores and after that probably open a lot of stores. In Quebec, we will have probably 40 or 50 stores (in the future).”

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The next step after that could even include expansion outside of the province’s boundaries.

“The last store in Pointe-Claire is in the English part in West Island. We are trying a new concept with the English part. If this one works very well, maybe we think of moving West or maybe even south,” says Blaise.

The first Canadian store opened in LaSalle, Quebec followed by one in Montreal and then another in Pointe-Claire.

“All of them opened this year,” says Blaise.

Optical Center has opticians and optometrists as well as audiologists. It sells eye frames, lenses and contact lenses. About 12 years ago the company began to offer audiology services.

“Now we are probably one of the first stores in Canada with both parts hearing and eye care,” says Blaise.

Each of the three Quebec stores has opticians and optometrists based there. There is one audiologist for the three stores.

Blaise says the company has a great partnership with Construction Vergo - Mylène Hardy, Paul Belanger and Yves Ducharme - which allowed the concept to come to fruition.

“Paul went to Europe to see what exactly an Optical Center store is and what we exactly wanted for Quebec,” he says. “Mylène was my eyes and my ears during construction. It was so nice to have somebody who understood exactly what we wanted and being self-motivated."

“It’s our first stores in North America and we wanted to share this adventure with someone who truly understands our concept store. Working with them was one of our best decisions.”

Hardy, Account Manager, Commercial Interiors Division with Construction Vergo, says the company was tasked with finding the right architects and engineers that would respect the concept and design of the stores which were already created in France.

“We needed to understand their concept and apply it to Canada,” says Hardy. “For example with the lights. We had to find an equivalent here in Canada to make sure that it was as per their spec and as per their needs. They have special needs for lighting . . .  We applied their design to our Canadian stores.”

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

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Mario Toneguzzi

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.