Not all of us pay nearly as much attention to our eyes as we should. Whether that’s being overdue for an eye test, or ignoring the sorry state of our age-old glasses – it’s a common oversight (pardon the pun) for many. From quirky Scandi-style interiors to innovative technology, we spoke to three of the North East’s best opticians to find out what makes them a spectacle.
OP & TOM
Putting originality in the frame, Newcastle-based opticians OP & TOM pride themselves on providing inspiration for the expressive and quirky. Chatting to owner and head optometrist Tim Harwood, he explains how today’s glasses are less about seeing and more about being seen – and how this ethos can improve people’s eyewear experience.
‘At OP & TOM we believe eyewear should be stylish, original and above all make you happy’, Tim explains. ‘We shy away from large brands; instead attending the fashion shows of Paris and Milan to unearth hidden gems from smaller boutique designers.’
‘Our store is filled with hand-picked designs from unique brands, creating a diverse range of different styles which take inspiration from current trends as well as classic styles from decades gone by’. He continues, ‘We also believe beautiful eyewear should be affordable, and are passionate about keeping our pricing simple and transparent. Our philosophy is that people should know the price at the start of the journey rather than the end.'
Alongside this dedication to providing value for money in their glasses, Tim highlights how OP & TOM offer value for time, too – giving customers a simple service from entry to exit. ‘All our glasses are inclusive of single vision lenses, anti-reflection coatings and an eye test. As for the eye test itself, we believe this should be unhurried, thorough and above all relaxed. We allow 45 minutes for every customer which allows us to offer advice on both your eye health and visual needs.’
For this trendy shop, seeing really is believing – their charming outpost on High Bridge Street is crammed with all matter of frames in contemporary wooden cabinets, old factory-style hanging lamps and vibrant green plants – it’s a Scandi feel designed to welcome and relax customers.
8a High Bridge, Newcastle NE1 1EN
0191 261 1426
Simon Berry Optometrists
Renowned for their cutting-edge technology and specialist eye care, Simon Berry Optometrists are determined to give the best, ethical service. Founder of the practice Simon has been dedicated to research and innovation in optometry for over 20 years – and it’s a passion that doesn’t seem to be wavering.
Shortlisted for the Independent Practice of the Year at the National SightCare Awards 2019, his Durham-based opticians encapsulates Simon’s ongoing commitment; ‘I guess what makes us different is we genuinely take pride in helping our patients, whether that’s with a simple pair of glasses or with very specialist advice’, says Simon. ‘Our patients know us for always investing in new equipment and being early adopters of new technology.’
However, it’s not just the incorporation of technology that sets Simon Berry apart, but their creation of it; ‘We are mostly known for the work we do with young patients or patients with a learning disability. I’ve recently invented a device to help optometrists examine patients with a learning disability that was launched earlier this year – it’s called a Visual Fixation System’.
The VFS device uses a mobile phone as a target beside the retinoscope (the apparatus that examines eyes), displaying something that will relax the patient and keep them interested. It has optics which allow the patient to watch the phone, keeping them still and calm while I examine their eyes’. He adds, ‘Because the device hides my face, it’s also great for helping those who may feel uncomfortable about eye contact’.
The device was launched in April 2019 and has been trialled in Ophthalmology departments at Cardiff University, Aston University and Seeability – a body providing specialist eye care support for people with learning disabilities.
Adding to their already enviable reputation as front-running optometrists, Simon Berry also work to reduce their carbon footprint through selling sustainable plastic frames. Handmade in Italy from 100% recycled sea plastic, Sea2see’s ultra-lightweight, super-stylish and most importantly environmentally friendly frames helping to make plastic waste a thing of the past.
The Jam Pot, 41 Marshall Terrace, Gilesgate, Durham DH1 2HX
G.T. Harvey and Partners
Award-winning Newcastle opticians G.T. Harvey and Partners offer a comprehensive service from eye tests to frame fitting. Unlike many hight street opticians, the practice has only ever been owned by two families – and for the last 28 years, Stuart Henderson has been the Managing Director and Principal Optometrist.
Speaking to Stuart’s wife Maria, who works as the company secretary, it’s clear to see how family ties have improved the level of service they provide; ‘We certainly feel that patients become friends. Most of them have known Stuart for more years than we have had the practice, and a lot of our patients knew our daughter Jenny as a baby, who now works alongside her dad as an Optometrist. Our small team of 10 have been with us for a long time, so our patients get to know their optician really well, meaning they can have full trust that they’re in the best hands possible.’
She adds, ‘We put our patients at the heart of everything we do, and each gets a thorough and personalised 45 minute eye examination, taking time to understand their individual requirements and come up with the best optical solution possible’.
In their Newcastle outpost situated just off bustling Northumberland Street, G.T. and Harvey display an impressive collection of over 1,000 stylish frames from top designer brands including Ray Ban, Silhouette and Etnia Barcelona in three separate Eyewear Galleries – making the hunt for glasses a more relaxed and enjoyable one. Each customer is then provided with a free eyewear styling consultation, where everything from your personality to your hair colour is taken into consideration – leaving no stone unturned in the quest to find you the perfect glasses.
The practice also boasts specialist clinics in dyslexia, dry eye, macula degeneration, myopia control and sports vision, using the latest technology to provide a bespoke service for everyone. ‘Not all eye care is the same. We offer patients the opportunity to experience the difference, with dispensing services provided by fully qualified, skilled opticians,’ Maria explains.
9 Saville Row, Newcastle NE1 8JE
0191 232 7615