The Spectacle Shoppe leads in high-definition lenses


30-year optician Joe Egginger at work on the Schneider Prolab machine.

A lens is about to be finished in the polishing chamber

A freshly cut lens in the Spectacle Shoppe lab.

It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see that the Spectacle Shoppe has the sharpest vintage styles around. What is less visible to many customers is that Spectacle Shoppe is a leader in lens technology — not just in the metro, but in the country.

The story of the Shoppe’s technological advancement begins in Germany, where the Schneider company manufactures the world’s leading high-definition lens-manufacturing machines. David Ulrich, Spectacle Shoppe’s founder and owner, knew that the Schneider Prolab machine would be a significant, yet worthwhile investment. He sprang for the equipment in June 2014.

“I decided to purchase this equipment, this $390,000 piece of equipment. It took six months to build,” Ulrich says. “We are now the only optician-owned company in the U.S. that has it.”

The time and upfront costs have paid off in the Shoppe’s ability to create high-definition lenses with prescriptions tailored to a rare degree of accuracy. 

“Our machine is one-hundredth correct of a prescription, instead of one quarter. The new system is faster and more accurate,” Ulrich says. “It’s like a blessing when lenses come out, you can’t believe it’s that clear.” 

Not only can the Spectacle Shoppe create a painstakingly accurate lens, but it can do so quickly, says Kristina Savoren, general manager of the New Brighton store and Ulrich’s right hand.

“Having the Schneider Prolab generator lens manufacturing system and Santinelli edger allows for in-house manufacture and customization of various materials and lens types — with reduced delivery time,” she says.

“In-house lens generation starts with the lens blank, basically a hockey puck of the patient’s desired material,” Winge says. “Once our patient chooses the best material for them, the lab uses the lens manufacturing software to create a design based on their unique frame shape and fitting measurements.”

The New Brighton location is the Spectacle Shoppe’s flagship store and houses the Schneider Prolab machine. Lenses are prepared in New Brighton and quickly delivered to the Uptown, St. Paul and Burnsville stores.

“We manufacture 45-50 pair of lenses a day, which allows us to have a two-day turnaround,” Ulrich says. “If the customer orders glasses in the morning, they are usually back the next day. Every day, myself or one of my people delivers to the stores.”

Ulrich is a forward-looking business owner, with the kind of vision that one can only get through rich experiences. His entry into the optical world came through a less-than common route: the military.

“I joined the military in ‘63, and in basic training, we go through all these tests. They asked me if I’d like to go to optical school in Denver,” he says. “I went there for eight months, and then I was off to Atlanta. And then my entire medical depot was shipped to Okinawa.” 

A series of serendipitous recruitments in the Midwest eventually positioned Ulrich to open the original New Brighton Spectacle Shoppe.

“I started this in 1976. I didn’t have plans of having more stores, but opportunities came, and when an opportunity knocks on your door and you don t open it, it’s gone forever,” Ulrich says.


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