Colorado’s Wink Optical Goes Green With New Boutique

BOULDER, Colo.--In the “green” hills of Colorado, nothing could be more appropriate than making a new optical shop as environmentally friendly as possible.

A close up look of Wink Optical’s “gourmet plywood” walls.
That’s the thinking behind Wink Optical, opened in April 2007 by Liz Erley, OD, and husband Brian. After Liz Erley had practiced for 10 years in this area, the couple decided to go out on their own, constructing an optical boutique using earth-friendly building principles.

“Boulder is a very ‘green’ town, so designing our store with an eye toward the environment made business sense to appeal to our market, as well as being the right thing to do,” Brian Erley told VM. “And we wanted the shop to be not just green but beautiful, as well.”

As they gutted the space to its perimeter walls and then rebuilt, that meant using materials such as Kieri board--referred to by Erley as “gourmet plywood,” made from sorghum--to line interior walls. Other “green” options: using compressed scrap wood for all countertops, laying wood-look vinyl flooring--“so we didn’t have to use natural resources”--and using energy-efficient lighting throughout.

To use less paper, Wink Optical has electronic medical records, and pays bills electronically whenever possible; it displays very little POP to save resources: “Everything we do, we try to do efficiently.”

Wink Optical’s reception area which uses a compressed scrap wood countertop.
Although the Erleys are happy to discuss Wink Optical’s environmental design elements with customers, they don’t try too hard to drive home the “green” message unless asked. “But when customers ask about it, it gets a conversation started,” he noted.

The store’s customer base skews toward a fairly affluent mix in the 35 to 55 age range...definitely a “green” demographic in Boulder. The store’s average eyeglass sale is about $700; 50 percent of lenses sold are progressive, 98 percent have AR.

Is this attention to detail paying off in profits, as well as helping the Earth? “We’re not a high-volume business, but we’re been profitable since we opened,” Brian Erley said. And “people say the place has a really good feeling when they walk in.” 
--Cathy Ciccolella