Seeing the business side of vision: Gilbert Eyecare

October 27, 2022

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Gilbert Eyecare has been operating for more than 50 years and calls itself “your Hampton Roads designer eyewear headquarters.”

A family-run business with locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, each offer medical offices and a retail eyewear center under one roof.

Jewish News asked owner Dr. David Gilbert what they’re all about and how they’ve weathered the storms that business owners have recently experienced.

Jewish News: What is your educational background and why did you get into this specialty?

David Gilbert: I spent my youth looking up to my father, Mark Gilbert, as he opened and ran what started as the retail component of Gilbert Eyecare as a licensed optician 50+ years ago in 1971. Seth Gilbert, my uncle, joined his brother in 1978, strengthening the family ties to eye care. Seth is still very much a part of Gilbert Eyecare’s daily functions today. It’s safe to say eye care runs in the family.

I grew up in Virginia Beach, attending First Colonial High School and my undergrad at VCU. I attended optometry school at NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry in Davie, Fla.

When it came time to choose my direction in life, the clinical aspect of optometry naturally appealed to me; becoming an optometrist was a no-brainer. As an optometrist, I’ve been able to continue to carry on my father’s values of excellent customer service and outstanding patient care.

I specialize in the management of patients with multiple eye diseases such as glaucoma, dry eyes, cataracts, macular degeneration, and much more.

While attending optometry school, I met Deena Falsetta, who later became Dr. Deena Falsetta-Gilbert. After optometry school, Deena completed a residency in pediatrics and development optometry. This specialized training allows her to work with children as young as six months and as old as 105. Deena is the one to see for anyone who struggles with double vision and learning/developed delays (poor school performance).

I have my practice set up so when we schedule patients, I have extra time to allow me to review the findings and explain in detail all aspects of my patients’ eyes.

Gilbert Eyecare expanded once more when I brought in the talent of Dr. Rachel Willcox in 2020. In one of the most challenging years of history, she came on board and has excelled in providing superb primary eyecare.

JN: Why did you decide to add a retail side with frames and lenses?

DG: We are constantly looking for a frame line that offers a great mix of fashion-forward looks, high quality, and good value. We send our buyers across the country and to Europe on a regular basis looking for the world’s best eyewear. To help in providing a look that is unique to our patients/clients is one of the coolest things to be a part of.

JN: What are the trends in medicine that have resulted in you offering additional goods and services?

DG: Eye care is constantly evolving with new technologies and techniques. Gilbert Eyecare providers and staff strive to be on top of the latest and greatest. Over the last five years, GEC has invested more than $250,000 in upgraded technology, allowing us to offer a state-of-the-art eye exam experience.

JN: Are patients more informed today?

DG: Absolutely! People are taking better care of themselves, there’s the internet, and people talk about their experiences more than ever. We specialize in taking all that information and packaging it together for our patients so that they can take all of what they have learned and see how it applies to their ocular health.

JN: Are there new medical and vision issues you are seeing more of than in the past?

DG: As our population ages, we are seeing more patients who struggle with the effects of cataracts (poor night vision and reduced quality of vision). With all of us spending more time on computers, we are seeing a much higher prevalence of dry eyes related to computer use and focusing disorders.

JN: What are some of the tools you use in business?

DG: We pride ourselves as a practice in having the best support team including the front desk, technicians, billing team members, and sales team.

I would do a disservice to our patients if I did not take a moment to talk about our optical staff and processes. The value of shopping for a new pair of glasses with a skilled optical representative is unmeasured because not all glasses are the right glasses depending on the prescription. Our opticians can not only find a pair of new frames that look great on the patient, but also work best with the prescription. Our optical staff takes pride in styling patients in a perfectly paired set of frames so when they walk out of here with their new glasses they are looking and seeing fantastic.

JN: What challenges have you faced as a business and how have you successfully dealt with them?

DG: Navigating through COVID, staffing shortages, an uptick in online purchasing options, and ongoing construction. When COVID hit in 2020, like all businesses, we had to find a way to provide a service in a manner that was safe for all parties in a very abbreviated capacity. We had to suspend staff hours and hoped they would return when things started to return to normal. We lost valuable employees during this time.

When the world started to re-open, people were still scared of COVID-19, and finding staff was an ultimate challenge. In addition, patients were turning to the internet more than ever for their glasses and contact lens purchases. With the ever-growing presence of online vendors, this continues to be an obstacle even years after the pandemic.

On the flip side of these obstacles, we have really grown to be a solid unit of staff and doctors with the best patients in the 757! There is no better feeling when a patient comes in and leaves with a smile on their face, a great new pair of glasses, adjusted glasses bought online that now are working beautifully, or a repaired pair of glasses.

For information, visit gilberteyecare.com.

-Debbie Burke


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