Dr. Donald L. Golden Leaves a Legacy of Forward-thinking Vision

By

Donald L. Golden, OD
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – He was one time referred to as an “Emperor of Eyeglasses” and a “Czar of Contact Lenses” by the Detroit Free Press. Optical visionary Dr. Donald L. Golden, a Miami resident, passed away earlier this week at the age of 99 – two months shy of his 100th birthday.

As his son, Richard S. Golden, recalls, his father was known for his business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit. Donald Golden was the one of the first (if not the first) doctors to leverage newspaper, radio and television advertising to build his business as a young optometrist in the 1940’s.

“He was often shunned by his optometrist peers because he was an “advertising” doctor”, explained Richard Golden. “Back in the late 1940’s doctors seldom, if ever, used advertising as a medium to promote themselves. There was a lot of pressure on him, both legally and professionally, to stop. He persevered, having the foresight to continue on an unorthodox path that would ultimately pay off in spades. The best part was that when you fast forward, ten, twenty, thirty years most optometrists and others in the medical field jumped on the advertising bandwagon – including his harshest critics.”

He continued, “He was one of the first doctors to break the stigma of using advertising as a platform for building his business. His success in using high profile multi media advertising clearly influenced not just optometrists, but the medical profession in general. Fast forward from then and look at the medical profession today – it is now the norm. He bet right.”

When Dr. Golden opened his first optometry office in 1946 in downtown Detroit’s First National Building, contact lenses were a new concept – one he believed strongly in. As a result, he was a champion of the innovation and became a contact lens specialist.

After the office began to flourish, Dr. Golden opened a contact lens specialty office in midtown Manhattan and prospered further. He sought out and formed a relationship with A. Mueller Welt, a renowned German scientist with a unique and superior contact lens, further enhancing the operation. Working together on research and development, they opened a contact lens laboratory in New York City and began manufacturing new and improved contact lenses, selling them to hundreds of optometric practices across the nation.

Subsequently, Dr. Golden changed his merchandising from a contact lens specialty in office buildings to a ground floor optometric center doing both eyeglasses and contacts, changing the name of the company to “Detroit Optometric Centers.” He sensed the public was willing to accept a retail setting for eye care products and services. By the late 1960’s, Dr. Golden began expanding into strip malls and freestanding buildings and by the early 1970’s his new shops were opening in enclosed malls. Dr. Golden ultimately shortened the name of the company to “D.O.C”.

The growth of D.O.C was a true family affair. Dr. Golden’s wife of 61 years, Norma, was known as a fashion icon and was instrumental in building D.O.C into the powerhouse fashion optical chain it became. “No one was really seeking out high end designers for optical stores, but my mother had such a keen sense of style that it made sense for her to do the buying. Our customers came to know D.O.C as the fashion destination for designer eyewear,” explains son Richard Golden.

While Dr. Golden and his wife laid the groundwork, their three sons, Michael, Richard and Randal joined the business. Along with his grandson, Seth, the family built the company into the sixth largest optical chain in the U.S. at the time of its sale in 2007.

A beacon of style, the “Doc” as he was affectionately called by all, was always impeccably dressed in his extensive wardrobe of hand tailored custom suits made of the finest materials. He was always the best dressed person in the room. “Doc was a man of style, vision and grace who was the kindest, sweetest and greatest man on Earth. His sharp mind and business acumen led him to develop many breakthroughs in the optical field. He will be sorely missed,” added son Randal Golden.

An avid fan of boxing, Doc was honored when Governor Jim Blanchard appointed him to the Michigan Boxing Commission. “Doc” enjoyed golf and traveling the world, and was an avid reader of classical literature and lover of classical music. In his late years, Golden later enjoyed going to concerts with his sons and grandchildren to see Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. “There must have been a seed planted in him at some point, because he went from a pretty serious guy who listened to Bach and read literary classics to having a little piece of rock n’ roll in him late in life,” added Richard.

Recalled Shelly Golden, daughter-in-law, “My father in law, whom I’ve always considered a “Dad”, made me feel like a daughter, not a daughter in law. He will always have a special place in my heart. He was everything you would ever want in a Dad – loving, kind, generous, fun and very cool! Watching him in his “golden years” as a loving, devoted Papa is a memory I will treasure forever.”

Dr. Golden was very philanthropic, supporting Jewish, diabetes, cancer and other important causes. For many years he partnered with school systems in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to award three underprivileged graduating high school seniors the Donald L. Golden scholarship, which paid for their college tuition.

He was also active in charity work in Miami, where high atop one of the Mount Sinai Hospital buildings bears the name “Donald L. Golden and Family Medical Building.”

Details about the funeral services for Dr. Golden, which will be held Aug. 2nd, and suggested donations are posted here on VisionMonday.com.