Ruth Domber and Dr. Stephen Rozenberg, of NYC’s 10/10 Optics.

10/10 Optics has been a fixture in Manhattan for over 40 years. During the last weekend in May, when some of the protests in New York City spurred vandalism, the inside of the shop, at the corner of 26th Street and Madison Avenue near Madison Square Park was smashed. Influential optician Ruth Domber shared her team’s comeback story with VM’s The Independent Eye. We thank her for this. – The Editors

“We had been open throughout COVID as an essential business. We had furloughed our entire staff (admittedly they were always a phone call away), adjusted the working hours for Dr. Stephen Rozenberg and myself so that we could man the shop, and we applied for the PPP money and government assistance. We were practically the only brick-and-mortar optical open in New York City.

“Our goal was to make enough money to save the business, pay the rent and have a practice that was still standing when things might return to normal. Four weeks ago, the funding arrived and we were able to bring back most of our staff with a staggered schedule. May 31 was the best day we’d had in over nine weeks. We could see a light at the end of the tunnel. The shop was busy, sales were happening, exams were going well and the mood was joyful. Everyone left work feeling great.

By midday the very next day, the 10/10 Optics team strikes a positive note, outside 10/10 Optics on the corner of 26th Street and Madison Avenue. (L to R) Jose, Jesus, Steve, Betty, Liz, Iris and Dr. Stephen Rozenberg.

“Sunday night, May 31 at 11:00 p.m. the alarm went off in our shop. The security camera links to my IPhone. I could see hordes of vandals and thieves flooding into 10/10 Optics, destroying our place. The police were called. We sped into Manhattan. By the time we got there 20 minutes later, the looters were gone and the police were there. NYC sounded like a bad movie. Sirens, screaming, glass breaking, gangs roving and police cars abandoned.

“The doors were smashed in, the glass windows all shattered, cabinetry, glass shelves and eyewear destroyed. The floor was covered with broken glass and overturned furniture.

“The most important thing to do was not panic but start to think about what to do next. We needed someone to board up the windows and door. Detectives were on their way and the police were taking a report from us. One of the police officers almost broke down. She said the City was being overwhelmed with looters. The police were virtually helpless to stop them.

“From her home, my daughter made calls and found someone to board up our doors and windows. Once that was done, the police left. We stayed until 5:00 a.m. to put together a list of what we’d have to do in the morning. We’d agreed that we wouldn’t let anyone in the store until the carpet of glass was cleaned up.

The dispensary suffered significant damage and loss.

“We spoke to the insurance company Monday morning. We told our staff NOT to come to work until the insurance company could send a commercial cleaning crew to get the glass and shattered furniture removed. But…we pulled up in front of the shop Monday morning and my entire staff was there. Every single one of them. I was blown away.

“The commercial cleaners showed up as well and the first order of business was the glass. It was everywhere. They got to work and I went into my office (one floor below the retail area) to make a myriad of phone calls. I lost track of time and realized that I had to go upstairs to tell my team what needed to be done next.

“I went upstairs and was rendered speechless. What I saw simply amazed me. The 10/10 Optics team had pieced us back together. Extra chairs from storage, salvaged shelves, frames from inside the drawers were put out, this moved here and that moved there…they did it all. They put us back together. I had no words. I just started hugging each and every one of them.

With much fortitude, a reconstructed display wall and counter. Dispensing chairs and counters, with collections, were back in place.
“It was elbow grease, love, determination and dedication in action. I never expected anything like this. By 1:00 p.m. we opened the front door for business. And the people came. My staff was exhausted, but working.

“As a member of the SPEC group, last year I met and hired Eugene Shatsman, owner of The National Strategic Group (specializing in marketing, business strategy and analytics for the vision industry). Throughout the COVID pandemic, they had been helping me by managing our weekly email newletter updates that I would compose for our patients. I’d found that staying in touch with our patients was critical and the effort had generated calls and emails to keep enough orders coming in. It's also worth noting that our list kept growing as we continued communicating.

As of June 10, a positive sign on the outdoor window, created by a set designer who offered to help.
“My ‘day after’ message shared a link to our security camera video of the looting. Within two hours of sending the communication, I received over 400 emails from our patients. FOUR HUNDRED! All but two emails were filled with words of support, kindness, encouragement and understanding. I stayed up that night and answered each and every email. They still keep coming in.

“In the days that followed we received flowers, calls, emails and drop-ins from our friends, neighbors and patients. Social media has been a critical medium for keeping the public informed about what we were going through. Each post was flooded with kind and caring responses. This support and encouragement has reinforced all of the hard work and effort it took to get us back on our feet and to open our doors. We are most definitely stronger than broken glass.”

Ruth Domber
10/10 Optics