Feature, Report

Tussling with a tight turnaround

When a former lens specialist bought his first optometry practice in early 2020, he set himself the ambitious task of completing a renovation within a week before re-opening under his new ownership.

Mr David Wallace purchased independent optometry practice, Mudgeeraba Optical, located in Mudgeeraba Market Shopping Centre on the Gold Coast, in February 2020.

He purchased the business from the previous owner who owned the store for 20 years.

David Wallace.

Although it’s his first plunge into full ownership, Wallace was able to lean on his experience as the previous owner of Wallace Everett Lens Technology. It started as a small lab providing personalised service to Gold Coast area optometrists and grew to offer an exclusive range of lens designs and coatings. The business was sold to Essilor in 2009.

He travelled extensively in his role as a sales representative for the lens lab, gaining exposure to several optometry practices, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales.

“I was in and out of up to eight practices a day, so I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like in terms of fit-out,” he says.

The practice’s original shopfront, located in a shopping centre.

This accumulated knowledge proved invaluable when he decided to gut and re-fit Mudgeeraba Optical, which created its own set of challenges being located in a shopping centre. After considering the refit for a later date, he quickly realised he needed a clean start and set himself an ambitious goal of completing the renovation within a week before launching.

He enlisted local company FAB Design who designed a new look and co-ordinated trades. Wallace also decided to keep the practice name, but had a new logo designed.

What attracted Wallace to FAB Design was its inexperience with re-fitting optometry practices. Established by Ms Fiona Donald, the company specialise in the project management of high- rise apartment and home renovations, but has recently completed commercial fit-outs, including real estate agent offices.

“Part of FAB’s appeal was their limited shop fitting experience; I liked the idea of a fresh set of eyes, who could add a sense of personality to the space,” Wallace says.

Donald, who brings a wealth of expertise as a qualified designer and builder, was upfront about setting a budget.

The practice’s shopfloor, which included an improved lighting plan.

“I asked David, how much do you want to spend? We are smart about bang for buck and delivering on budget – we don’t go over. David had a $60,000 budget, and we came in just under,” Donald says.

Wallace and Donald discussed concepts and agreed on a coastal theme.

“We decided to keep it coastal, tropical, but not glitz and glamour. We went for an organic look with details including natural wood mirrors and a wood-looking floor,” Donald explains.

The practice’s outdated shopfloor and frames displays.

“As this was my first optical store fit-out, I needed to gain an understanding of how David’s business works, such as the importance of shelving and display cases. It took a bit of thinking. Lighting is also crucial; it needed to be functional but also have some wow factor,” she says.

With a tight timeframe and shopping centre constraints to consider, Donald ensured the project ran smoothly, co-ordinating tradesmen and supplies.

“David took possession of the business on a Friday, and we were on site gutting and demolishing the old interior on Saturday morning,” Donald says. “We had seven days to complete construction work in limited hours – mostly after business hours when the shopping centre closed. We completed the décor in the last two days.”

FAB Design completed the project within nine days, with the only delay being the unexpected task of rewiring the ceiling lights.

“We had everything planned prior to starting work on site – cabinetry, display cases, new flooring. We wanted wow factor, and David had selected wallpaper, and pendant lighting for that purpose,” Donald says.

The shopping centre management were accommodating but tradesmen had to work after business hours – a challenge which made managing a team of trades an “absolute godsend”.

Shelving, flooring and lighting were crucial elements of the renovation.

“It was a tight time frame. I was there most of the time, and the project flowed well, from one trade to the next. Fiona and I had talked extensively about what I wanted – such as shelving, flooring and lighting – so we were well-prepared,” Wallace says.

A year after opening, Wallace says the outcome has been “absolutely fantastic”.

“I don’t think there’s been a week since we renovated the practice that someone doesn’t say how amazing it looks,” he says.

David Wallace owns Mudgeeraba Optical, an independent practice on the Gold Coast, Queensland. 

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