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Patients who used JC Penney at Regency Mall for glasses and contacts can now turn to Eye Openerz on Main Street to find their perfect eyewear.
The glasses boutique, 334 Main Street, has been a downtown mainstay for the last ten years and welcoming new patients – effectively doubling his customer base – is a nice way for owner Ken Brown to mark his anniversary.
“Penney’s patients have been wondering where they’re going, and I’m happy to say they’re coming here,” he said. “They can expect a mailer soon so I can introduce myself and invite them into the store.”
JC Penney shuttered its Racine store and sold the building late last year.
Some neighbors throughout the area might remember Brown from the D.O.C. Optical Center in Regency Mall. He owned and operated that location for over 20 years.
The most common question Brown gets from customers is, “What would look good on me?” and he wants people to know that unlike bigger name vision centers, he doesn’t let folks just wander around without any assistance.
“We would together to find the perfect pair of glasses or sunglasses,” he explained. “This is more of a boutique experience, not a chain store. Customers can expect a quality, higher class product.”
Brown is planning a 10-year anniversary celebration from 5 to 9 p.m. May 1, which coincides with the second First Fridays of the year.
He has been an optician for over 30 years and said he fell into his career after moving from Detroit to Milwaukee in 1982 to find work in a brewery. When his plan fell apart, he went to every mall in the city and filled out applications at every store, but never got hired. Instead of giving up and going back to Michigan, Brown rented a carpet cleaner and went to stores offering his services.
After cleaning an optician’s shop, the owner there asked Brown if he wanted ever thought about being an optician.
“I had no idea what an optician did, but I was willing to learn,” Brown added.
He ended up settling in Racine because, he said, the city is the perfect blend of urban living with the ability to afford living on the lake.
“There’s lots to do here, and the city is just the right size,” Brown said.
Another fun fact? His voting address is the slip where he moors his boat, which he uses as his summer headquarters.