Top Labs That Made News in 2013

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NEW YORK—Many of Vision Monday’s Top Labs made news in the past 12 months, either by expanding operations, being involved in mergers and acquisitions or entering into significant new partnerships. Here is a chronology of the key events between September, 2012 and September, 2013 in which the Top Labs played a role, as reported in VM and VMail.

September, 2012
Hoya Vision Care, the second largest Supplier-Owned U.S. Lab Network, announced that it recently opened a lab in Clive, Iowa, near Des Moines. Hoya said the new facility is equipped for processing its free-form lenses and its SuperHiVision AR lenses.

October, 2012
Essilor, the largest Supplier-Owned U.S. Lab Network, announced that it had made three important acquisitions, including two Top Labs: Balester Optical in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, and Hirsch Optical in Farmingdale, N.Y. Balester Optical was ranked as the 12th largest Independent U.S. Wholesale Lab in Vision Monday’s 2012 Top Labs Report. The lab has been controlled by the Balester family since it was founded in 1934.

Hirsch Optical had been owned by Roz Rothstein, Michael Rothstein and Ken Mittel. The lab, which was founded in 1978, ranked 14th among VM’s Top 25 Independent Wholesale Labs in 2012.

The third lab Essilor acquired was Carskadden Optical Company, a 66-year-old Zanesville, Ohio wholesale lab. The transaction was done through Select Optical, an Essilor lab based in Columbus, Ohio.

January
Walman Optical Co., the largest Independent Wholesale Lab Network, purchased Rite-Style Optical (RSO) in Omaha, Neb. Walman bought the 65-year-old company from its founder, George Lee, and the Lee family. RSO was ranked third among Vision Monday’s 2012 Top Labs.

Also in January, the two leading contact lens distributors in the U.S., ABB Concise and Optical Distributor Group (ODG) announced that they had merged. The merger included ODG’s Digital Eye Lab, the fifth-ranked independent wholesale lab in 2012, according to the VM’s Top Labs Report.

Finally, Essilor announced that it had acquired LensTech Optical, a wholesale laboratory in Greenwood, Ind.

June

 
Essilor announced that it had acquired a majority interest in Prodigy Optical, a Minnesota lab and e.magine Optical, a Tulsa, Okla. lab that ranked 25th among VM’s Top U.S. Wholesale Labs in 2012.

EyeMed Vision Care announced that it is implementing an updated business model designed to support provider practice growth, simplify administration and deliver a wide choice of products and labs. The model includes a range of new features designed to support provider practice growth, simplify administration and deliver extensive lab and product choice, including a national lab network featuring Essilor Laboratories of America.

Specific Essilor Partner Labs and the Walman Optical Co. family of businesses, including Walman, Soderberg, Harbor and Rite-Style, will be added by October 2013, EyeMed said. Participating providers will register for labs from among the 60 offered in EyeMed’s new national network, which includes Luxottica Lab Services. By the end of 2013, the lab network is expected to grow to more than 100 through the inclusion of specific Essilor Partner labs and the Walman labs.

July
VSP Optics Group, the third-ranked Supplier-Owned U.S. lab network, reported that it would open two new VSPOne Optical Technology Centers this summer, one in St. Cloud, Minn., and the other in Hawaii. The Minnesota and Hawaii facilities expand the VSPOne Optical Technology Center network to a total of nine locations.

Essilor purchased a majority interest in Classic Optical Laboratories, a Youngstown, Ohio wholesale laboratory specializing in managing high-volume contracts for insurance organizations, managed care organizations, union organizations and trust funds, educational institutions, correctional facilities, manufacturing plants, and federal and state government programs. The Friedkin family, including company president Dawn Friedkin, retains a minority interest in Classic Optical. The lab will remain as “an individual entity” and the company’s management team, headed by Friedkin, will remain in place, according to Essilor.

Classic Optical was founded in 1970. The company, which employs 170 people and produces more than 3,000 pairs of prescription lenses, will generate net sales of $20 million in 2013, according to Vision Monday estimates. It was ranked 10th among independent U.S. wholesale laboratories in VM’s 2012 Top Labs Report. ■

akarp@jobson.com