GREEN BAY, Wis.—As the challenging 2020 year comes to an end, Shopko Optical noted in an announcement this week that it managed to maintain “steady growth in hiring qualified optometrists and expanding its optical centers during a tumultuous year.” The optical retailer opened 11 centers within new and existing markets in 2020 while also hiring 40 optometrists. Shopko Optical, an affiliate of Monarch Alternative Capital since mid-2019, currently has 92 optical centers across the Midwest and Far West.

Looking ahead to 2021, Shopko Optical said it looks forward to expanding both locations and staff next year. As year’s end approached, Shopko said it has signed five new leases for centers that will open early 2021 (Aurora, Ill.; Hudson and Fond du Lac, Wis.; Papillion, Neb. and Savage, Minn.). The company said it expects to open “more than 50 new centers by the end of 2021.”

Overall, the company said it has had “a successful year amid the pandemic” in 2020. “While this year came with many challenges, we are proud of the agility and dedication that our staff displayed to provide the best care possible for our patients,” chief executive officer Russ Steinhorst said in an announcement.

“With our core focus on our patients’ needs, the demand for more centers and staff naturally grew, along with a loyal patient base. We are proud to hire exceptional optometrists, from new grads to experienced professionals, to fill that need.”

Among its new OD hires are 12 recent graduates from notable colleges such as Illinois College of Optometry, Indiana University School of Optometry, Kentucky College of Optometry, New England College of Optometry and Salus University College of Optometry. Apart from new-graduate hires, Shopko Optical also expanded its team by adding 28 career-experienced optometrists in 2020.

“For any qualified optometrists considering joining our team, we want them to know that they are welcome at Shopko Optical,” Steinhorst said.

Monarch Alternative Capital acquired Shopko Optical in May 2019 out of bankruptcy court, as VMAIL reported. The new company’s first priority was to focus on revitalizing the brand and relocating the optical operations from the former Shopko Stores retail business to smaller storefront locations.

Following its emergence as a new PE-backed retail company in mid-2019, Shopko opened 80 freestanding optical centers in 180 days last year, as VMAIL reported.