BELMONT, North Carolina—It’s been two years since husband and wife team Brad and Rachael Wruble, ODs, took the plunge and opened Belmont Eye, an independent practice located here. Michigan natives who met and fell in love while pursuing their degrees at Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University, Drs. Wruble moved south in 2010 after completing their residencies, when Rachael landed a job in Gastonia, North Carolina. Now, the couple are well established as a local, family-oriented independent practice—but it wasn’t always this smooth going. “I think we have always wanted to have our own office together, it just took a few years with a few roadblocks and a few lucky opportunities,” Dr. Brad Wruble told VM.
Dr. Brad Wruble and Dr. Rachael Wruble
After residency, Dr. Rachael Wruble took the job with two optometrists in Gastonia. Brad, however, said “I was not exactly sure what to do, or how to go about getting started.” He filled in at several offices, ranging from private practices to corporate leases, and was working seven days a week. This helped him learn about operating a business, sometimes the hard way, he said.
At the same time, Rachael became a minority partner at her practice, and eventually took on the challenge of managing a corporate lease with friend and fellow OD, Ryan Corte. Meanwhile, Brad slowly built a relationship with an optometrist who was looking for a way out of his private practice. Then, the pieces started to fall into place.
Brad opened Belmont Eye two years ago and Rachael joined him after moving on from her previous job. Now, Belmont Eye is an independent family practice, with an emphasis on building community relationships.
In fact, building relationships is the backbone of Belmont Eye. “Independent means building relationships with staff, patients, our community and the business representatives that come to our office. We make it a priority to have conversations with every person that visits our office,” Brad said.
Belmont Eye is well established as a local, family-oriented independent practice.
Rachael observed, “The main aspect about being independent is personalized care. We treat each person that interacts with our office like family. Some patients need more of our time than others, but that never changes our goal of making sure each person gets the care they need.”
In addition to treating their patients like family, the Wrubles extend their relationships outside of the practice by getting involved with their Belmont community. Rachael said, “We love our community. Our children are being raised in this community so it’s very important that we do everything we can to make our community the best possible version it can be. We volunteer at our local health department, support local charities and nonprofits, serve on local nonprofit boards, help out at Church and much more.
“The other part of that is going to local events to show others in the community that we support them: from visiting local businesses to support their efforts, going to local high school athletic events, or even our participation in the local Christmas Parade. Showing up for your community events is very important.”
Like many independents, the Wrubles prioritize carrying
unique, independent eyewear brands in store.
Like many independents, the Wrubles prioritize carrying unique, independent eyewear brands in store. Rachael said, “To me being independent means working with independent companies, setting ourselves apart from everyone else. We carry frame lines that no one else carries in our area or in some cases the entire country. We enjoy frame lines that are unique or have a really cool story. For example, we carry OVVO in our office; the frames are made in Poland and Germany, which just happens to be where Brad’s family migrated from over 120 years ago.”
Treating your patients like family can make striking a work/life balance a little tough, but the Wrubles work hard to keep it under control. Their young daughters spend time in the office with them, and their 4 year-old wants to be an eye doctor too when she grows up. Brad said, “Being a family practice dictates every aspect of our practice. From treating our patients like family to actually treating our family as patients. We are on call 24/7 and there have been a few occasions where our little girls have been assisting us after hours.”
Belmont Eye has a very active Instagram account,
which solidifies their reputation in the community.
“One important area that is tricky is unplugging and taking family vacations,” Rachael said. “I believe most private practice docs are afraid of not having a doctor at the office. We made a decision early on that our family time is the most important. We try to get away a couple of times a year and leave the office in the hands of our awesome staff.”
At the end of the day, the Wrubles make it work by making it a family affair. With an active Instagram account and a great reputation in the community, it’s clear that Drs. Brad and Rachael have found the balance through independence.