After 29 years and hundreds of clients, Village Optical in Damariscotta will close its doors March 31.
“It was a very hard decision to make,” owner Jane Hall said. “There was a lot that went into it, but I know this is the right decision.”
Hall, of Tenants Harbor, is a certified optician with more than three decades of experience. She got her start in the profession after a search for a teaching job was unsuccessful. After seeing a newspaper advertisement, she went to work for Dr. Robert Dreher, an ophthalmologist, as a technician and later as an optician.
Having found a job she “had a real knack for,” Hall later decided to branch out on her own and opened Village Optical in April 1989. The business was first located in Newcastle, where she rented space from Dr. Roy Seibel Jr., but later moved to Main Street Centre in Damariscotta.
As an optician, Hall works with clients to find the right frame for their glasses. She does not conduct eye exams. A lab in Lewiston makes the lenses to the specifications of a client’s prescription.
When selecting the right frames for eyewear, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration. From face shape to skin coloring, “beauty factors” play a role in what frame looks best on what person, but there are other variables, like personality, that determine whether a frame will be a good fit, Hall said.
“When someone’s trying on different glasses, I can point out what looks flattering on them, but if it doesn’t fit with their personality, it doesn’t really matter,” Hall said. “Some of the people I’ve known forever I can pretty easily make recommendations, but it takes some time to get to know a person.”
In her 29 years of business, Hall has enjoyed a loyal clientele of both year-round and seasonal residents. Hope Prahst, of New Harbor, was Village Optical’s first client in 1989 and continues to be an active client today, while other clients live in Florida and New York, Hall said.
Personal service was always Hall’s focus, she said. She offered home visits for people who couldn’t make it to the business to see her, and would sometimes be stopped to adjust a pair of glasses in the aisle at the grocery store.
“I always say, price is what you pay, but value’s what you get, and I think people have really appreciated the value of the customer service,” Hall said. “I’ve always gotten new people through personal recommendations, which is just the highest form of a compliment.”
While Hall has helped multiple generations of families and watched some of her clients grow from children into adults, many of her clients have also been a part of her family’s life, she said. Whenever Hall closed the business for a family event, her clients would ask about the event the next time she saw them.
“I’ve always really enjoyed the camaraderie I’ve shared with the ever-evolving clientele. The people here are truly wonderful,” Hall said. “When I go to the Rockland Hannaford, I hardly see anyone I know, but when I come to the one here in town, I know everyone!”
That camaraderie made the decision to close the business difficult, but with her lease up for renewal, Hall knew it was time to close.
“I’m still young enough and healthy enough, and I want to see what else is out there, even though I don’t quite know what that is yet,” Hall said.
One commitment that will continue to occupy Hall’s time after Village Optical closes is her work with Greenville Junction Depot Friends. Hall serves as the president of the nonprofit, which raised money to stabilize the Greenville Junction Depot after it was named one of the most endangered historical buildings in the state by the Maine Historic Preservation Society in 2008.
Prior to the business’s closure March 31, all in-stock inventory is on sale, and Hall is offering free frame tune-ups. She plans to hold an open house as the business winds down to once again visit with her clients.
“That’s really what I’m going to miss most, the people,” Hall said. “I’m working on having some business cards made up with my email and phone number if people wish to stay in contact, because of how much I’ll miss them.”
Village Optical is open Tuesday-Friday at Main Street Centre, across from Hannaford Supermarket. For more information, call 563-8879.