This year, Cherry Optical Lab is marking 25 years as a successful, family-owned, independent optical lab. During that time, the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based wholesaler has established an enviable reputation for its excellent quality of work and forward-looking approach to technology.

(L to R) The Cherry Optical Lab management team includes Sara Gerondale, Kim Lockett, Joe Cherry, Lynn Cherry and Adam Cherry.

Founded in 1999 by optical lab veteran Joe Cherry and his wife, Lynn, the lab has become one of the most recognizable players in optics production. Yet many within the optical industry may not know the history and tradition behind the Cherry Optical Lab brand.

Today, the company is helmed by the Cherry’s son, Adam, along with a team of innovative and spirited employees whose goal is to fulfil the company mantra—“make the world’s best lenses and the world’s happiest humans”—a mission statement that reflects the Cherry family’s belief that their customers and employees should always be happy with the Cherry Optical Lab experience.

Sitting in his office with his pride and joy, a border collie named Rainbow (Rain), Adam Cherry, now president and owner of the lab, can reflect on the accomplishments of his family as they took two edgers and a computer and transformed it into a full-service lab doing more than 3,000 jobs a day.

“They took a leap of faith to go their own way, the way they thought it should be. It took a lot of belief that they could make it happen,” Adam Cherry said of his parents, adding that at the time, the dream wasn’t 25 years of being in the industry or that the company would grow in the way that it did.

Ryan VandeWalle, AR director (l) and AR manager Ashley Jones are two of the Cherry Optical Lab team members valued for their expertise and industry knowledge.

One of the first points of contact at Cherry Optical Lab is Sarah Soyk, who works on the customer care team.

Joe is known for being honest and direct about how the lab got started all those years ago.

“The second-hardest thing I’ve done in my life was telling my wife I planned to quit my job, create my own laboratory and work for myself,” he tells people of the founding of the company. “The most difficult thing I’ve done in my life was asking my wife to quit her job and work with me.”

As a young man, Adam Cherry didn’t envision a career in optics. But after spending time helping his parents grow their business, he began to see his place in the company. He started off working in marketing and sales. This soon grew into bigger opportunities as his father looked to him to lead the company into the future.

Now, more than 20 years later, Cherry is taking the lab in new directions, expanding their service and lens offerings, and building a name as one of the leaders in lens processing. Recent expansions have brought the facility’s manufacturing space up to more than 55,000 square feet.

“I see the journey we have been on and the potential out there. We are dialing ourselves in and I feel it continuing to strengthen,” he remarked.

For the past five years, Cherry Optical Lab has been on a growth spurt. The lab recently completed a multimillion-dollar expansion, adding digital-surfacing equipment and edging equipment. They have also expanded their on-site inventory, bench-and-assembly stations, inspection systems and customer service operations.

Just a few years ago, the company completed a 15,000 square-foot expansion of their main production and customer support locations. This was followed by the addition of 7,800 square feet to build storage for consumables, parts inventory and staging equipment. In 2022, the company acquired an additional 9,500 square-foot office building. Slated to be ready later this year, the area will house the sales, marketing, customer support and executive teams.

This area will also be used for training and education for both staff and customers. Expansion continued in 2023 with the addition of a 2,000 square- foot coating lab, bringing the total square footage to 6,000 square feet. This allowed for the addition of several new units, increasing capacity and production speed with Essilor’s D645 dip-coating line, Quantum Innovation’s Fusion M and the Satisloh 1200-DLX.

The surfacing department expansion included the addition of a Schneider CCU Modulo automated blocker, an HSC Modulo XTS generator, two CCP Modulo automated polishers, a DBA Modulo automated blocker and a CCL Modulo automated laser marking system. These additions helped expand the lab’s manufacturing capabilities and increase throughput.

Recently, the company acquired four additional acres of vacant land for future development.

Cherry Optical Lab recently underwent an expansion that included the addition of new units in the surfacing and coating departments.

Adam Cherry leads customers on a tour of the lab.

To keep pace with growth over the past five years, Cherry said the company has added more than 180 employees, bringing their workforce to approximately 285 people, who are encouraged to be a part of the lab journey and invited to share their ideas and experience to build a better product.

Adam Cherry is quick to admit that the success of Cherry Optical is largely due to the team that surrounds him. When his parents started the lab, it was just the two of them.

The company has made strides to offer unique and specialty services. They have a certification from Danish eyewear company Lindberg, giving the lab the technical expertise to handle the delicate frames. The lab also recently added the Avulux migraine specialty lens to their product catalog, allowing eyecare providers to offer their patients more advanced vision health options.

In October 2023, Cherry Optical Lab became one of three North American labs to partner with Flō, a privately held Israeli start-up specializing in ophthalmic lens coating production, as VMAIL reported. This partnership will give Cherry Optical Lab access to Flō’s cutting edge technology, where additive manufacturing (AM) technology is being applied to generate optical coatings on lenses. Flō’s digital coating technology is achieved through multi-material and multi-layering techniques that expand customization and automation options, reducing production complexity and increasing scalability.

Cherry is always quick to share his praise for the Cherry Optical Lab team and how rewarding the experience has been. Cherry has created many incentive opportunities and ensures that his team has everything they need to succeed. He said that the culture of Northeast Wisconsin is what gives his team strength and determination.

“Our people are better. They are blue-collar and hard-working. They are part of the fabric of who we are in the world,” he said, adding that the community he calls home is a place where the CEO, the real estate agent, the attorney and the factory worker can all get together and drink an Old-Fashioned together.

Despite the widespread consolidation within the U.S. wholesale lab sector in the 21st century, Cherry is committed to remaining independent. He said that although the company has been approached frequently by potential corporate buyers, he remains steadfast in staying true to his employees and his roots.

“It has to be authentic. It’s never been a tagline. It’s who we are,” he said. “It’s a culture of wanting to work together, be around each other, and turn it into what we want: to make the best lenses possible.”

The company is also taking steps to make the lens manufacturing process more sustainable. Since March 2022, Cherry Optical Lab has diverted more than 231,000 pounds of plastic from landfills. This is the equivalent of six 53-foot semi-trucks worth of plastic. Utilizing Filtertech machines, plastic shavings, also known as swarf, are reused and repurposed.

Cherry said that after a quarter century in business, the company continues to seek opportunities for growth. He hinted at major investments the company has lined up and future investments that are slated to help improve production and quality.

“We constantly reinvest in ourselves. We are always looking at what’s next in design, materials, coating and equipment,” he said.

Cherry believes in looking to the past to shape future innovation, noting on more than one occasion that when the industry was saying the end was near, it was time to go out and buy more two-by-fours and get ready to add on to the lab.

“We have positioned the company to be serviced and supported, and to be ready for the future,” he said. “Not getting attached to one product allows us to keep moving.”

Instead, Cherry and his team see themselves as “Process Pioneers” working to continue to innovate and develop new lens technology with their suppliers and partners. They have also added a catalog of specialty lenses and technology to ensure that eyecare providers can offer their patients the latest vision correction options.

Cherry said he doesn’t worry about the idea of competition or other labs being added to the industry landscape, noting that with constant improvements on existing technology and new designs being developed all the time, there is a space for everyone in the optical industry.

“There is plenty of market to succeed at the same time,” he said, believing Cherry Optical Lab has carved out a niche of both technology and service that keeps them on top of their game. “We are excited to see what the future holds.”