COVID-19 Stage 4 restrictions and a financial contribution from the landlord provided an optometry practice in north-east Melbourne with the ideal time to renovate.
Optometrists and university mates Mr Steve Dinh and Mr Quent Wain established Acuity Eyecare in 2003 when they purchased an existing practice in Sale in Victoria’s Gippsland region.
Since then, they have grown their business to a group of five independent practices, acquiring locations in Doncaster (2003), Wallan (2006), Epping (2010), and opening a greenfield practice in Vermont South in 2017, which features a modern fit-out and state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment.
Last year they got to work renovating their Doncaster practice and commenced plans to do the same for the Sale store.
“We’ve been operating both practices for 17 years. Things date – it was time to rejuvenate,” Wain explains.
Dinh and Wain had worked with building designer Mr Rohin Adams, director of Two Designs, to design and install the practice fit-out of their greenfield store in Vermont South three years ago, and turned to him again for the Doncaster project.
“Opening our Vermont practice was a ‘wow’ moment, so it was a no-brainer to go back to Rohin for the Doncaster practice facelift,” Wain says.
“Steve and I agreed we had too much involvement the first time around, and it was best left to the designer to come up with ideas, with a fresh set of eyes.”
The Doncaster renovation was completed last year while the Sale refurbishment was still in the design phase in December 2020.
Like their Vermont South and Epping stores, the Doncaster practice is situated within a medical centre enabling them to work alongside a medical team including general practitioners and ophthalmologists.
Prior to commencement, Dinh and Wain had to renew their lease with the Manningham Medical Centre.
In re-negotiating the terms of the new lease, they secured a financial contribution from the landlord that was allocated towards the renovation.
To complete the Doncaster renovation, they closed the practice during Stage 4 restrictions, which came into effect for metropolitan Melbourne from 6 August before being able to resume routine service on October – 10 weeks later.
“That set of restrictions limited our operation anyway, so we utilised that opportunity to close and complete the renovation in July/August,” Wain says.
Interestingly, the budget to fit-out the Doncaster practice and greenfield Vermont practice were comparable.
“This was partly because we completely transformed the Doncaster practice. When we opened 17 years ago, the tendency was for practices to have a separate waiting area. Today, that element has changed, and now the waiting area tends to be an open space to encourage patients to browse frames,” Wain says.
With this in mind, they removed a wall that divided the waiting room, installed a new reception area, and cabinetry, and updated both consulting rooms so everything matched aesthetically.
“We discovered that the cost of refacing the original joinery would be comparable to installing new joinery. With that in mind we got Rohin to redesign from the ground up rather than ‘facelift’. This meant adding a little to our original budget but it was certainly worth it.”
Unlike the Doncaster location, their Sale practice faces the street front, and is located in a shopping strip.
“It’s a long building, not exceptionally wide – only five or six metres – but deep. We want to utilise the space more efficiently,” Wain explains.
“We’re changing the floorplan to increase the retail space and to display more frames, and give it a more open feel.”
When Wain spoke with Insight in December, he said they were looking to utilise the quieter Christmas period to complete the fit-out, but if that didn’t eventuate, he hoped the project would be completed in early 2021.
“A refurbishment makes a practice more attractive, adds street appeal, and it’s a more enjoyable space to be working in day- to-day,” he says.
“Our Doncaster renovation has attracted comments from patients that have been coming for years and it’s fresh, modern look is certainly noticed by new patients and people who randomly walk in too. It was overdue.”