Let me begin this feature with a heartfelt thank you. The idea to "meet our neighbors" started as a personal endeavor, partly to get to know the other people and businesses around our studio and partly to hone my writing skills. But an even bigger reason why we're doing this is because we find value in taking the time to offer deeper glimpses into ordinary lives. In this fast-paced day and age, we oftentimes skim the surfaces of each other when in truth, the really interesting stuff lies further down. Little did I realize the inspiration that would flare up or the stories that would unfold as a result. Just two features in and I'm already receiving more encouraging words and warm compliments than I ever expected. I would be foolish to think however that these have anything to do with pretty pictures or carefully formed words. Instead, I believe that these "deeper glimpses" resonate with readers because they reinforce the fact that we are all just people and we all have attached to us, a unique set of circumstances and experiences. These in turn, mold us and shape us and give us the unique life in which we live. Many thanks to the people who have agreed to take time out of their busy lives and schedules to share with me and a great many thanks to all the people who have read and responded so kindly.
And now without further adieu, I'm going introduce you to some Opticians :)
Meet the man who almost got fired by Sam Walton himself, Lyric Edwards. Together, he and his wife Michelle run Edwards Optical. Lyric Edwards is an experienced Optician and he's fully certified and qualified in every area of the field. An optician is NOT an eye doctor. Eye doctors are fluent in the anatomy of the human eye. They can identify the flaws that limit your sight and tell you why you're having trouble seeing. Opticians are fluent in the design and construction of optics and corrective lenses. They can very accurately design corrective glass that corrects your vision and allows you to see as you were intended. That's what Lyric does, and he's been it doing for almost 40 years.
In 1976, Lyric Edwards joined the United States Army where he was trained to be an Optician. He was sent to Korea where he served for 4 years before returning in 1980. He then spent the next 10 years of his life living in California where he worked for a number of optics companies. One job in particular allowed him the opportunity to work on optics for the Hubbell Telescope. Another job he had was with a "little" company called Lens Crafters, which is where he met his wife Michelle.
After years of living and working in California, Lyric and Michelle decided that the high real estate prices of their area were going to hinder them from owning a home. They jumped at a chance to move to Kentucky when Lyric's job offered him a transfer. His new job transfer required him to travel often and one of the places he frequented was the state of Indiana. As it turns out, Wal-mart was preparing to open an optical laboratory there and Lyric was presented with the opportunity to do some work on the project. As Wal-mart grew, Lyric decided to work with them exclusively and He and Michelle decided to move to Northwest Arkansas.
This is the point in the story where Lyric mentions almost getting fired by Sam Walton. At this point, Lyric was technically a Wal-mart Vendor and one of the first to relocate to Northwest Arkansas for Wal-mart. At the time, Sam Walton did not want vendors relocating to the area. When he learned that Lyric and Michelle were heading his way, he called Lyrics boss at the time and threatened to fire him. In order to save his job, Lyric had to write a detailed report of his job description and all the benefits he could bring by working so "closely" with Wal-mart. He agreed to train all their optical employees which he did by making appearances on satellite television and he also agreed to travel to every single optical lab Wal-mart setup to supervise and assist as needed. Lyric tells me that he traveled so much, he would literally walk into a parking lot and not remember what color his rental car was. The dream for both Lyric and Michelle though, was to own their own optical business. For years, they saved their money with this dream in mind and in 1998, they officially opened Edwards Optical in downtown Rogers.
Lyric describes his business as being at the bottom of the food chain. Customers in the market for glasses visit an eye doctor first and then, they typically buy directly from their doctor or they walk the very short distance next door to a strategically located "vision center". If customers don't find what they're looking for there, they then visit all the other retailers. If they still don't have any luck, they eventually find their way down to stores like Edwards Optical. But Edwards Optical must be doing something right. For the past 15 years, they've been building a loyal customer base of people who continually return for new lenses or new glasses. They've got customers that have moved out of state and still send glasses back for adjustments. Lyric tells me they shipped a pair of glasses to a customer in rural Africa.
If you purchase glasses from Edwards Optical, you will see why their customers are so loyal. You'll sit down with either Lyric or Michelle and they'll talk to you about each pair of glasses you've selected. And they know a great deal about the products they sell. Lyric is careful to pay very close attention to the materials used, both in the frames and in the lenses. The brands you'll find at Edwards Optical are truly unique. There are brands such as Rayban (you've just gotta carry Rayban) but there are a number of brands you've probably never heard of; Brands that definitely fall into the "boutique" category. Customers walk out of their shop with a unique pair of glasses, a calendar telling you when you should bring them back in for an adjustment and enough glasses cleaner and wipes to last you a very long while.
If you search for them on the internet, you won't find an official website. (We're working on that). What you will find is the standard business info, an obsolete google street view picture (they've moved across the street since then) and some reviews that will probably convince you that in the world of glasses and optics, they're actually very high up on the food chain.