GREEN BAY, Wis.—Executives of Shopko Optical and Midwest Vision Centers have been meeting for at least the past two months as they worked to smooth the path forward once Shopko Optical completed its planned acquisition of the smaller optical retailer, executives of Shopko Optical said Monday on a conference call announcing the finalization of the deal. During the call, Shopko Optical executives noted that Dr. Myrel A. Neumann, the former owner of Midwest Vision Centers, will serve in an advisory role moving forward to help manage through the transition.

In addition, Midwest Vision Centers’ nine-member corporate team in the main office in St. Cloud, Minn., will continue for the immediate future to help with the transition.

The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. VMAIL reported the broad outline of the deal early Monday prior to the Shopko Optical news conference.

 Russ Steinhorst.
“This represents our seventh acquisition over the last six months and brings our total number of locations to 142,” Shopko Optical chief executive officer Russ Steinhorst said on the conference call. “It also represents our entry into the state of North Dakota, with four locations, and further expands our brand in Minnesota, adding 14 locations and bringing us to a total of 29 [locations]. Shopko Optical has a long history of patient centric eyecare, high-quality eyewear and outstanding customer service.”

Asked whether Shopko Optical will continue to consider prospective transactions in 2022, Steinhorst said the company does not anticipate “letting up on [transactions], when something makes strategic sense for us and for the optometrists.”

He added, “As we look at our markets, we think we're well-suited to be the preferred acquirer, and to really partner with optometrists in our markets.” Shopko Optical now operates in 13 Upper Midwest states.

Midwest Vision Centers had sales of almost $11 million in 2021, while Shopko Optical recorded $120 million in revenue for the year as sales bounced back from 2020’s pandemic levels.

Steinhorst also noted that the management team at Shopko Optical has been working hard to get the retailer back on track under its new ownership (it was acquired out of bankruptcy from Shopko Stores in 2019) and in overcoming the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I'm confident that the staff we have in place at Shopko Optical can handle these 18 [additions] along with whatever other opportunities may be presented to us in the Midwest and Northwest,” he said.

Kirk Lauterback, chief operating officer, said Shopko Optical will provide support for the doctors at Midwest Vision Centers to continue practicing in the manner that provides the best care for their patients, and that eventually the 18 locations will carry the Shopko Optical name.

“During this time, we'll introduce new operational support systems, great new brands and new patient services to enhance these [Midwest Vision] Centers as well as the overall patient experience,” Lauterback added. “During that process, we will eventually integrate them into Shopko optical centers.”

Cindy Moen, Shopko Optical’s chief people officer, noted that Shopko Optical executives, going back to April, have met with the Midwest Vision Centers’ teams and optometrists at every Midwest Vision Center location. Since that time, core groups from both companies have been working together to make sure the companies would be ready for Monday’s acquisition announcement, she added.

Moen also explained that Shopko Optical will continue to evaluate opportunities for Midwest Vision Center’s nine-member corporate team, especially for those executives who are interested in staying on beyond the transition time period.

“Over the course of our meetings … and over the course of our conversations over the last few weeks, it's become increasingly clear that Midwest Vision Centers and Shopko Optical share the same hometown values and commitment to patient-centered care,” she said. “Together, we are committed to delivering on our values of trustworthy service excellence, competency and community to each other as a newly formed team and to the patients and communities we have the privilege to serve.”

Shopko Optical is the trade name of Shoptikal LLC, an affiliate of the private investment firm Monarch Alternative Capital, which has offices in New York City and London. The company has provided eyecare services across the Midwest for more than 40 years, and now has a team of 800 people across the company.