Kids-Only Practice Puts the Focus on Children's Eyecare in Tampa

  Nate Bonilla-Warford, OD.
  Lego Minifigures and Star Wars have been major sources of inspiration for the practice’s decor and marketing materials.
When Nate Bonilla-Warford, OD, owner of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care on the west side of Tampa, Fla. set his eyes on a second practice on Tampa’s east side, he had an instinct it would have to convey “no grownups allowed”—or in his words, be a “non-threatening, fun and comfortable” environment for young kids to receive specialized eyecare.

The practice first opened its doors on March 24, but the official Grand Opening event was saved for May 4 so that it could be timed with the Great Glasses Play Day, an annual country-wide initiative celebrating children with glasses and other vision corrections that Bonilla-Warford has supported since its launch in 2012. Perhaps coincidentally, the date is also one celebrated by Star Wars geeks—“May the Fourth” referring to the famous “May the force be with you” line from the iconic movies—so theming the store was seemingly fated. Along with the phoropter and other optometric tools typically found in an exam room, checkups at Bright Eyes Kids might include marveling at Star Wars paraphernalia or trading Lego Minifigures with the doc.

“As soon as you walk in, you see a Lego Duplo table, coloring books, fun, lighthearted pictures on the walls, Star Wars [Legos] and frames,” said Bonilla-Warford. “We set up a whole area behind glass with a bunch of Star Wars Lego fighters and Minifigures facing off against each other.” Bonilla-Warford also noted the practice’s proximity to the Lego Land Park as a major source of inspiration and way to relate to his patients. “It’s a way to bond with the little kids. We’re about an hour away from the Lego Land Park, so trading Minifigures is really big up here,” he said.

Children enjoy a magic show at the Grand Opening event.  
Bright Eyes Kids is certainly not all fun and games, however. According to Bonilla-Warford, pediatric eyecare typically divides into two primary specialties—vision therapy and ortho-k—and his is one of few practices in the country to offer both specialties. “Some patients need both,” he said. “Right now, vision therapy is more dominant, but I would like to be doing about equal amounts of both. We already have patients sign up for both services at the new location and I definitely think that will grow.”

The practice did face some challenges in keeping things kids-only. In order to continue accepting VSP, for example, both locations had to carry adult frames, and of course there was the risk of rejecting over-18 patients—but Bonilla-Warford and his staff were steadfast on creating a “super specialized” practice for an underserved demographic in the area.

“Ultimately, what we decided was to carry some adult frames and see adults if they called to have an appointment, but we’re marketing exclusively to children,” Bonilla-Warford told VM. For walk-ins hoping to schedule an exam or get new glasses, “we would encourage them to be seen at the family practice or send them to a local place with a better adult selection,” he said.

Bonilla-Warford’s goal for Bright Eyes Kids, despite any initial uncertainties, is crystal clear—“to carve out that niche and be the destination for children’s eyecare in the area. There’s no other place in this part of the state that’s just an optometry office for kids,” he said.