My father, Fred Fuerst, founded EYEcenter Optometric in May, 1960—60 years ago last month! In the early years, when the practice was just starting out, that first office was adjacent to our home. When the phone rang, my mother would drop what she was doing and run to answer it. When a patient arrived, if my father was in with a patient, she would quickly move to serve as the receptionist and front desk person. I would be placed in a crib kept in a back room at the office. So I can truly say I have grown up with EYEcenter Optometric as it grew. Today, we have five offices, 10 doctors, more than 75 staff members—all since these humble beginnings!
As a young boy, I loved going into the office after hours or on weekends with my dad. My brother Mike and I would go into an exam room and one of us would sit in the exam chair while the other pumped the hydraulic foot pedal to make the chair elevate up. When it went as high as it could go, we then let it come down —and repeat this over and over again. To us, this was almost as good as a carnival ride at the fair! You can imagine how thrilled we were when a replacement chair was purchased that had an electric motor to propel us up and down! As a wide eyed 5 year old, this was wonderful.
Growing up around my dad and his optometric practice gave me a ‘front row seat’ to what a wonderful profession this is. Helping people see, helping change kids’ lives who had visually related learning disabilities, fitting small pieces of plastic—contact lenses—that could work as well or better than glasses, was very intriguing. Plus, you had the added benefit that patients who come in for eye care are not sick, so you get to see people at their best. Running into patients around town, serving on community groups and chamber of commerce panels set a tone for how rich life can be in working with patients, friends and neighbors within the community.
For whatever reason, as a teen I didn’t want to be perceived as being a ‘chip off the old block’, taking the easy way and pulling family strings to be involved in the family business. So I looked into law, into finance and banking, and into medicine. Aptitude testing pointed me squarely towards healthcare, and by my senior year in high school, I began to envision my career involving optometry.
This has been a terrific choice. Working alongside my father for 25 years was something I truly treasure. I appreciate this more and more as the years pass since his retirement. His insight, perspective, and mentoring have helped mold me into the optometrist I am today!
By Dr. Randall Fuerst, EYEcenter Optometric