All in the Family: Whylie Eye Care’s Copple Clan Continues Its Optical Heritage

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DES MOINES, Iowa—With a family that's well known within the field of optometry as well as among its clientele throughout the state of Iowa, Whylie Eye Care Centers has made a name for itself both nationwide within its profession as well as statewide among its customers.

   

Lois Copple, founder

 

Recognition among its customers was built and maintained through television commercials that made founder and matriarch, Lois Copple, a local celebrity. Now in her mid-80s, Lois shifted much of the responsibility of running the business to her son and president, Vince Copple, even though she's still known to show up from time to time and stay involved with the business whenever she wants. The commercials continue running, which also keep Lois front and center as the face of the business.

Another son, Kenton Copple, is vice president, in charge of the company's in-house optical laboratory. A third son, Vince and Kenton's brother, Clayton, manages the Select Networks vision insurance benefit brokerage company, which sells plans through Avesis.

Whylie Eye Care Centers comes from an extensive and well-regarded optical heritage. Vince Copple explained to dba how the company is connected to a number of other recognized names in the field. The business was originally started by Joe Whylie, a neighbor of Vince's parents when the family purchased Whylie Eye Care Centers in 1970. One of the purchasing partners was Vince's grandfather, optometrist Maurice Rosin, who was also instrumental in founding Rosin Eyecare, which is now ranked number 36 among Vision Monday 's Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers. Other relatives connect the family-owned business to the Shanbaum family, which has also been involved with other optical companies, including superlab Dal-Tex Optical, Royal Optical and Ocuco.

   

Vince Copple, president

 

The current incarnation of this Iowa-based optical group was founded in 1980 as CVK Corporation dba Whylie Eye Care Centers, with the C standing for Clayton, the V for Vince and the K for Kenton, to represent the sons' involvement.

Since then the company has grown to 12 locations throughout Iowa. Over the past few years Whylie Eye Care Centers has invested in technology that not only allows for the production of state-of-the-art digital lenses but also improves the efficiency of the operation across its multiple locations. For example, Vince described a proprietary point-of-sale software program that allows him to monitor orders placed while analyzing frame inventories in real time.

"Everybody is online with one database, so when I want to look at current inventory, I know up to the minute where every frame is and the sales generated by that particular item," Vince Copple told dba.

The electronic health records software the company selected, MyVision Express, has also been implemented across all of Whylie's 12 locations and has enabled the company to qualify for meaningful use reimbursements from the federal government. The company also took advantage of other policies instituted by the government's stimulus plan when it was able to depreciate all of its investment in new surfacing equipment for its laboratory. Now, the company produces all of its progressive lenses (Shamir and Seiko) on 100 percent digital free-form equipment from Satisloh.

   

Kenton Copple, vice president

 

Not only has the quality of the lenses been substantially improved, but the cost of producing them has been dramatically reduced. "Our inventory carrying costs have been reduced by 50 percent or better because we don't have to stock all different types of progressives," Vince Copple told dba. "It's been three years now, and the reduction in the cost of lenses has more than offset the loan costs."

As recent government policies have enabled Whylie Eye Care Centers to build toward the future investing in state-of-the-art optical technology, its foundation remains firmly planted on decades of family involvement in the optical field. And even in semi-retirement, its matriarch, Lois Copple, remains the face of the business, a local celebrity continuing to appear on television shows such as Des Moines' DSM Living. Of course, now son Vince is also getting into the act, performing in his own Whylie Eye Care Centers television commercials as well.

 

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