Independent Optical Opens From the Ground Up

By

Independent Optical opened
its doors on June 24, 2019.

MOUNT PLEASANT, South Carolina—For Jake Sunkin, OD, independence has always been the way. In fact, Dr. Sunkin told Vision Monday, “I’m not sure I even knew optometry existed outside of private practice until I was maybe in high school.” Dr. Sunkin grew up surrounded by independent practices, namely the one his aunt and uncle owned near Akron, Ohio, where he worked as a tech in high school and during college breaks. After getting his degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry in Fort Lauderdale, Dr. Sunkin started working on his dream of opening his own independent practice.

To achieve that dream, Dr. Sunkin worked in a small practice, and then spent a few years in corporate optometry. Then, he said, “I had my feet under me financially, had the clinical experience I needed, and with my 30th birthday looming, I knew it was time to start building my dream practice.”


Dr. Jake Sunkin, OD, and his
father, Chris Sunkin.

Dr. Sunkin’s dad was also approaching a milestone birthday, leading the father-son duo to ring in their big years by joining forces to start their business. Chris Sunkin senior retired from his 25- year career in the industrial equipment businesses, and, together, they broke ground in South Carolina.

Early on, Dr. Sunkin made the decision to document this journey of literally building his practice from the ground up on Instagram. He used the social media site to show the behind the scenes reality of opening a practice, from the construction setbacks to the process of choosing brands and stock.

Dr. Sunkin explained, “I’m a millennial so it is kind of just what we do. To be honest, it’s mostly to amuse my friends and family at this point. My dad and I are able to find the fun in just about anything and this is no exception. We expect that same lightheartedness to carry over into our practice going forward. What we are doing is very much a reflection of who we are and what we enjoy and social media is a great way to showcase that for someone who is first hearing about us or trying to make that decision on where to get their eyes examined.”

  
Dr. Sunkin shares his
construction journey on Instagram.
The Sunkins share the process of
building their own shelves on Instagram. 

But Dr. Sunkin’s Instagram account goes beyond lighthearted entertainment for his friends and family—it also shows all the work and heart that goes into an independent practice. Dr. Sunkin said, “By starting a practice from the ground up, I get to curate everything from the look, to the office culture, to the inventory… There’s nothing in this process that we haven’t thought about. We agonize over every small detail down to the look of our price tags.” Documenting all of that on Instagram means customers can see a practice as more than just an eye doctor’s office—it’s a labor of love.

Independent Optical opened its doors on June 24, 2019. Dr. Sunkin hopes that it will be a place his patients feel comfortable and excited in. He said, “There are two essential elements that we strive to convey to everyone that crosses our doorstep. The first is that there is a quality and a level of style available to the patients that they haven't seen before, and we have it. The second is that we believe that many people are looking for ‘permission to be stylish.’ Too many people are just shown shelves full of eyewear and asked ‘do you see anything you like?’ Our approach is to work one on one with that individual to find just the right pieces that fits their lifestyle and that make them feel like they look better than they did when they walked in.”

  
Dr. Sunkin shows some behind the scenes
shot of Independent Optical’s construction. 
Dr. Sunkin chooses frames for his stock at the practice.

To achieve these goals, Dr. Sunkin is focusing on stocking independent brands, such as Lowercase and Article One. He explained, “There’s something so cool about carrying a frame line that has a story and meaning behind it, and something even cooler about hearing that story from the owners of those independent companies themselves.

“We want to be able to share those stories with our customers who will likely be wearing that frame every day for the next year or more. We believe that eyewear can and should be more than just a frame to hold lenses. It becomes a part of who they are, so we want them to feel that sense of connection.

  
A view of Independent
Optical’s finished façade.
The interior of one of Independent
Optical’s exam rooms.

“I love authenticity, I love people who have a passion for what they do. We seek out that passion in everyone we work with at Independent Optical. And when we can’t find something with that excitement behind it—we make it ourselves. I’m banking on the fact that people will share in my excitement.”