Mark Twain once said that if you find something you love doing, you’ll never work again. He could have written about Bruce Tobin.
When meeting Bruce Tobin, I think of something Mark Twain once said.
“Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Twain could have written about Bruce Tobin. This 67-year-old optician’s passion, what he enjoys doing every day, is making prescription eyewear and helping customers at his Glebe Optical Excellence store.
It’s clear as soon as you enter Optical Excellence that this is no ordinary chain store. Frames on the walls are not afraid of color or personality. There are red frames, orange, blue, and green frames, round frames, square frames, and frames that look like fried eggs. Stars and lightning. Elton John and Lady Edna. It’s the kind of store Andy Warhol could have had if he had become an optician.
Originally from Montreal, Tobin wanted to be an artist, sculptor and screen printer. He got into the optical business part-time as a student in the 1970s. Shaping glass matched his artistic skills and appealed to his eye for detail.
“I enjoyed the job, and dealing with the customers, giving them information,” Tobin says. “But above all, I liked being paid. At the time, I thought I could go into debt to go to art school, or get paid by working at the optician. I didn’t have to think long to decide.
Eventually he bought the Optical Excellence business from the previous owners in 2004, keeping the name and nothing else. For some strange reason, the previous owners set aside half the store space to sell children’s toys, greeting cards, paintings and furniture.
It made no sense to Tobin.
So he got rid of the kids’ toys and greeting cards and expanded his picture frame inventory to include more exotic tastes. There is nothing cheap about Optical Excellence. This is a full-service store featuring designer frames you won’t find anywhere else. Oliver Goldsmith, LA Eyeworks, Frederic Beausoleil and his own line, Optical Excellence. It can manufacture frames specially to order via the Walter Wissing factory in Germany. Buying glasses here is like buying a tailored suit.
Thanks to this, the store is doing very well. Tobin knows his market, and the market knows him.
Many companies are vying for your optical money these days. It is possible to buy prescription glasses online for anything below $100. They may not fit, or the lens will fit the eye precisely, but they are not expensive. Tobin has no problem with them. Really.
“Online optical stores are great if you’re looking for a cheap pair of glasses to have around the house,” he said. fitting by an optician.
Tobin has another passion, which rivals his love of glasses. He is also an accomplished professional golf master, certified by the Canadian Golf Association, and currently teaches outside of his home practice range. But when he retires and hands over the reins in a few years, he intends to play golf all the time.
“What do people do when they retire? Tobin asks, a little pleadingly. “They either sit on the couch or do the passionate things they’ve wanted to do for years. I have two passions, this profession and teaching golf. After about 60 years, I’m still studying golf. My father was a teacher. He also had a doctorate in golf. I have a master’s degree. I think it’s the teacher in me. I have lived a wonderful life pursuing my passions.
I think Mark Twain would approve.