It’s been 10 years – and an incredible 7,000 NHS patients - since Canadian-born optometrist Claire Whyman first set up shop in Stornoway.
That’s a lot of spectacles. But more important, for Claire and her team at Claire Whyman Opticians, it’s a lot of time spent on one-to-one care, making customers’ vision a priority.
Now, to celebrate a decade of dedication, the business on North Beach Street is planning a month of giveaways. Every customer throughout November will have their name and number put in a lucky dip and the owner of the winning ticket pulled each Friday will win a refund of the cost of the glasses that they have just purchased.
“It’s just something to mark our anniversary, a way of saying ‘Thanks’ to the many customers who keep us going, and who genuinely are a pleasure to work with and to help,” said Claire.
“We are fortunate to have been very busy and we just hope that continues for the next decade!”
Claire, originally from Ontario in Canada, trained on both sides of the Atlantic first in physics and then taking a BSc in Optometry in Manchester. After graduation she worked as a physicist but found long hours in dark rooms wasn’t her cup of tea and made optometry her priority.
“The wonderful thing about working as an optician is that you see people, every day, all day – It’s very sociable,” she said. “People can get nervous about going for any health-related check up so we try to make sure It’s as relaxed as possible – I’m lucky to have a really great team who are all very friendly.”
In fact, she said that it sometimes feels more like a meeting place than a medical service, with the happy sound of friends old and new from all around the islands catching up as they wait.
Lining the walls of Claire Whyman’s Opticians are some of the impressive stock of glasses including big names such as Michael Kors, Ray-Ban and Marc Jacobs offered in an array of colours, shapes and sizes. Claire lets the younger staff choose some of the styles…“You gotta stay on trend,” she says!
On that note, although most of Claire’s patients are NHS, and many qualify for prescription glasses vouchers, long gone are the former days of bland NHS specs. It’s hard to tell the difference these days between the brand names and the affordable ranges that NHS patients can purchase with their vouchers.
Claire and the team urge everyone to make sure they book regular eye-check appointments. Many ocular problems can be solved if caught early through regular eye checks. Eye tests every two years are recommended as the minimum for everyone, of all ages, but many people still forget.
As well as checking eye health an optometrist can also spot early signs of other health issues that can reveal themselves in the eye before other symptoms are spotted.
For Claire and her team, seeing someone’s face light up after receiving new glasses is a moment they will never tire of.
“You just can’t imagine it, unless you see it, the look on a person’s face when they finally get glasses and they can see clearly again,” said Claire. “They just say: “Wow!” and it makes it all seem very worthwhile for us here.”