Haywood Family Eye Care is located in
historic downtown Waynesville.
WAYNESVILLE, N.C.—This month, Haywood Family Eye Care celebrated 62 years of business. Located on Main Street in the quaint town of Waynesville, the practice has served Haywood County for generations and, despite changing hands throughout the years, has managed to keep up with the times without sacrificing its heritage.

Dr. Eugene Harpe, OD, established Haywood Family Eye Care in 1955 after his service in the Navy. In 1988, Dr. LeRoy Roberson joined Dr. Harpe and the two practiced together until Dr. Harpe’s retirement. Dr. Roberson then hired Aimée McBride, OD, fresh out of optometry school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where she graduated as valedictorian of her class in 2012.

Dr. McBride bought the practice when Dr. Roberson retired in 2014; she eventually brought on fellow UAB graduate Dr. Thomas Pinkston, OD, who was Georgia Optometric Association’s Young Optometrist of the Year in 2015. Dr. McBride and Dr. Pinkston now run Haywood Family Eye Care together as 50/50 partners.

The practice’s social media campaign included fun facts
about its history; for example, when Haywood Family
Eye Care was founded in 1955, gas was 23 cents a
gallon and Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.
To celebrate their 62 years of rich history, Haywood Family Eye Care hosted a special Founder’s Day Sale earlier this month. With fewer than 10,000 residents, the eclectic area of downtown Waynesville, which Dr. Pinkston describes as a “modern day Mayberry,” is home to many boutiques and small businesses and consequently receives a lot tourists during the summer months—a perfect time to hold an anniversary sale.

To advertise the event, the staff handed out promotional cards downtown and frequently posted about it on social media, featuring images of historic downtown Waynesville and facts about the practice’s history.

Owning a longstanding business in a small town certainly has its advantages; for example, generations of customers have taken their business to Haywood Family Eye Care, resulting in strong customer loyalty. “We have many patients that received their first pair of glasses or contact lenses from Dr. Harpe that now see us for macular degeneration and glaucoma,” explained Dr. Pinkston, the newest OD at the practice.

Another benefit to owning an older practice, according to Dr. Pinkston, is having staff that are invested in the practice. Optician Michelle Queen, for example, has been at Haywood Family Eye Care for over 20 years and has worked for all four ODs through the years.

(L to R) Heather DeNinno, optical assistant; Miranda
Hoffman, insurance coordinator; Candace Conner,
technician; Jennifer Williams, technician; Michele Queen,
optician; Selena Sutton, patient coordinator; and Kelly
Rickman, technician celebrate Haywood Family Eye Care’s
62nd anniversary at the Founder’s Day sale.
“Michelle not only brings professionalism and optical knowledge to our team, but also gives our practice stability as things change over time,” Dr. Pinkston noted. “We have many patients that come back for years (or even from other states) just to see Michele for their glasses.”

Dr. Pinkston also recalled retired optician Shirley Wyatt, who worked at the practice for over 25 years. He said, “Team members like Michelle and Shirley are invaluable. Patients love them and they create stability. They are also tremendously helpful and allowed me to connect with patients faster, as they have seen many of our patients grow up.”

In addition to faithful, longtime customers and staff members, Dr. McBride and Dr. Pinkston still get support from Haywood Family Eye Care’s original ODs, Dr. Harpe and Dr. Roberson, who made an appearance at the anniversary sale.

“Dr. Roberson is very involved in the community and is actually the landlord for our building, so we still see him,” said Dr. Pinkston. “He comes in from time to time to help us with adjustments and dispensing when we are busy. Dr. Harpe still stops by occasionally to say hello, too.”

While Haywood Family Eye Care values history and tradition, the practice has also been evolving since its inception. “Dr. Harpe and Dr. Roberson were quick to embrace new technology and standards of care to better serve patients' needs,” explained Dr. Pinkston.

(L to R) Dr. Eugene Harpe, Dr. LeRoy Roberson, Dr. Aimée
McBride and Dr. Thomas Pinkston have all practiced at
Haywood Family Eye Care throughout the years.
“For example, Dr. Roberson was an early adopter of medical charting and communication, and implemented electronic medical records in 2006, long before most practices. He was also one of the first optometrists in Western N.C. to utilize an OCT at his practice. Over the past 62 years, our office has not just tried to ‘keep up’ with changes in optometry, but has yearned to embrace change and welcomes it to better serve our patients,” Dr. Pinkston said.

Dr. McBride and Dr. Pinkston carry on this philosophy; they’ve welcomed the technological advances in optometry, upgrading their phoropters and adding an Optos Optomap image as part of their comprehensive exams. They also have kept up with changes in fashion and style throughout the years by renovating their office and always offering the latest frames.

Currently, the practice’s most pressing problem is that they are growing too quickly. “We have grown substantially over the past few years—about 40 per cent of our patients are new,” explained Dr. Pinkston.

Dr. McBride recently remodeled the practice so that
it would look like a stylish optical boutique.
“But because we are downtown we cannot easily move or expand, which is a problem that most other businesses in our area are having. We do our best to optimize the space that we have, but on busy days we’re all in each other’s way,” Dr. Pinkston said. While Dr. McBride and Dr. Pinkston have done a good job of embracing both the past and present, their lack of space creates a difficult dilemma. “How do we continue to grow successfully and embrace our past at the same time?” posed Dr. Pinkston. “Do we move and leave behind the quaint one-of-kind location in historic downtown Waynesville?”

He said, “We feel it is important that if we eventually move locations, we embrace our historic past. We hope to eventually find another larger location in or very close to downtown Waynesville. This depends on the growth of our practice over the next year. Luckily, this is a great problem to have!”

Until they decide how to best handle their growth, Dr. McBride and Dr. Pinkston can enjoy their practice’s success—according to Dr. Pinkston, all of the marketing for the anniversary sale has put them on track to have their busiest month to date.