Repurposed materials and custom pieces were part of the makeover. Julie Brown, OD (l) and Shannon Zollinger, OD enjoying their new space.
The two ODs with their design team and the Salvage Dawgs’ crew take a break from the shoot.
COLLINSVILLE, Va.—When they took over an existing practice a few years ago, in this small Virginia town, Drs. Julie Brown and Shannon Zollinger said they both knew they wanted to do “something different,” with the practice, to change up how it looked so that it would reflect their energy and approach to vision care and eyewear dispensing, and the way the office presented itself to the community.

They’ve gotten even more than they hoped for with the total transformation of The Eye Site. The optometrists were inspired by the impact and creativity, not too far up the road here in Southwest Virginia, of Black Dawg Salvage, in Roanoke, where Mike Whiteside and Robert Kulp were rewriting the rules of repurposing old furniture, architecture and building materials. Their salvaged vintage pieces include everything from doors, windows, mantels and more. Once they are recovered, the guys sell the valuable pieces to a wide range of clients across the country, from construction workers to high-end interior designers, who use them to restore other historical buildings and add character to newer structures.

Today, one of the most popular series on the DIY/HGTV Network, “Salvage Dawgs,” has featured The Eye Site project on one of their episodes just last month. This month, the two doctors are hosting a “Salvage Dawgs” Open House to share with the local community with a series of events.

And, their collaboration with Black Dawg Salvage has inspired them to spin off Podticals, a new interior dispensary design business, where they hope to work with other optical retailers and ECPs who are interested in creating unique and custom design solutions for their own offices and shops.

As Whiteside told VM, “The two of them had a great energy and were sharp, realizing that they wanted to take local materials, salvaged wood and pipes from local buildings and structures, and create a totally new concept for their shop’s tables and displays. They saw the real connection you can make when you tell people ‘the story’ of your surroundings.”

Robinson also noted, “Since they did their project, me, and my family, our friends and many on our team now go to them to get our eyes examined and to buy our glasses.”

The new Eye Site company dispensing tables are made from reclaimed wood and Egyptian iron and the office has used reclaimed barn wood and piping to design a completely new style of rustic/industrial chic to display and dispense glasses to their patients.

Said Dr. Zollinger, “We wanted to be different. This was a ‘nice’ place for 35 years, but we are spending so much time here and we wanted our patients to feel that the place was new and unique and reflected our personal touch. We are so pleased with the results. A lot of eye doc offices can be sterile and impersonal.”

Since the rehab began, the filming took place and once the episode aired in late July, the word of mouth, local media coverage and social media conversation about The Eye Site has brought a lot of attention to the place. Said Dr. Brown, “We are so proud of it and the people in our community have a lot of pride in it, too! We’ve started to get calls from all over the country and we are excited about what this will bring. It’s raised awareness of the importance of getting your eyes examined. And it’s helped us to tell folks, ‘Trust who we trust.’”

The two doctors met each other at optometry school, both attending The Ohio State University College of Optometry, graduating in 2009. After each went into practice and continued their own education, life and circumstance brought them together in Virginia and the two friends decided to go into their own practice together.

Said Dr. Brown, “I’d encourage other optometrists to ‘go for it.’ Certain aspects of the optometry field stay narrow, but open up your thinking and take a chance. With new technology and new designs, you can implement things in an intelligent way.”

—Marge Axelrad