Life on an Island [Elle Tatum]


Hi!  My name is Elle and this is my first blog entry so I wanted to introduce myself and let you know what my life as an optician is looking like these days. I have practiced opticianry as a licensed and certified optician on Bainbridge Island, just a 30 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, for over twenty years. I have managed three local optical shops within eye care clinics, both for optometric as well as ophthalmology practices and also had the opportunity of leasing one of them in my early years of practicing opticianry. The lease/profit share opportunity gave me a taste of "calling my own shots" and I found working for myself rewarding and liberating.
At age 60, two and a half years ago, I decided to go for the dream, no matter the risk, and in spite of having only $1000 to my name, I somehow (with a few stepping stones) found and opened my own independent optical shop, "Elle's Island Spectacle". Elle's is a jewel box of a vintage Parisian-styled optique-boutique in a quaint and historic, yet very up and coming, hamlet on our Island, Pleasant Beach Village. As luck would have it for this cat-fancier, my petite shop is adjacent to PAWS, our local cat adoption center. Our shared wall has three portholes with large plexiglass bubble windows which extend into my shop and in which the kitties hang out!  Had I known prior, I would have named the shop "Cat Eyes"!

My spirited little shop is finding its way as a niche-market boutique featuring really fantastically cool eyewear frames, elevating to the art of eyewear. I am striving to become a shop of solely exclusive lines which keeps the place special, myself motivated and excited, and provides a way to keep from stepping on the toes of my two fellow Island optical shops, which is very important to me. At this time I carry, as exclusives, (Dutch) Roger Eye Design and Seattle designed Rain City Eyewear- both distributed by I am proud to also carry (exclusively) Victory Optical Collection, a family operated American business since 1941 featuring classic/iconic Americana mid-century styles, as well as You's Eyes, also Dutch. I do carry a few mainstream lines but they have to really be wonderful, such as featuring awesome innovative technology, to make the ongoing cut! Over many years, I have become the Island "trunk show queen" and now host four per year for my own business. These great shows bring it all, therefore expanding my offerings to my clients, and at times it's the trunk shows that pull me through financially.

This dream-baby is proving to be quite the wild, rewarding and exciting ride - not without lots of really hard work, hand wringing and nail biting every month! I quickly learned the meaning of "It's all about the cash flow!"  Flip side of the coin, however, is that out-of-the-blue, Roger Hoppenbrouwers, of Roger Eye Design has created the "ELLE" frame, designed especially for me, which will debut with the Fall/Winter collections at SILMO Paris later this month - and, of course, I am going! This was never going to have happened during my mainstream vision clinic optical shop work history. In fact, I had never even known it to be something to wish for or aspire to!  My sister says it's like getting my optical "crown" during this winter stage of my career, and crowns are awesome, right? The frame design has been kept a secret from me, but I was asked for input on some of my preferences in general design shapes and of colors…the suspense is killing me and I will probably write my next story while in Paris and will send a photo!

I feel that the experiences I am having with the trials and rewards of getting independent (just me - no doctor, bookkeeper or assistant) as well as my significant experience with trunk show planning, in particular, may bring some interesting contribution to Daily Optician, of which I am excited to be part of! Thanks for reading - my future stories will be far shorter, I promise.

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