January 2012

Eye Do - The Eye Site of Bluffton

Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Sometimes you have to look at young love and accept it for what it is. The gods were obviously just bored and decided to have a big time by swirling together two local optometrists with a bunch of consonants to create an upside down and backwards success that’s all about trust and eager optimism.

Drs. Robert Szypczak and Jennifer Switak are 30-something optometrists and entrepreneurs; a married and loving couple; the parents of a moderately antsy 11-month-old named Zachary; and keepers of not one, not two, but four offices, including two Wal-Mart Vision Centers, a private practice and optical at Berkeley Place on Buckwalter Pkwy, and yet another location in downtown Ridgeland.

The Szypczak-Switak story traces back to them having much in common before they ever met. They both grew up near Chicago, a mere 20 minutes apart, and later went to college towns of the same Bloomington name; Switak at Illinois State, in Bloomington, IL, and Szypczak at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. Close, yet not close enough, until they finally did meet at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, where as fate would have it, they were placed in alphabetical order at orientation, which put them side by side, and together for the rest of their lives. Here, they saw clearly (ha) that their future together was not only as optometry teammates but something more—much more.

Love at first sight? That’s too easy.
During Optometry school, they took time away from work and vacationed together on Hilton Head Island—their first vacation together—and pretty much decided right then and there that this was going to be the place for family and an optometry practice.

“You know how hard it to find things on Hilton Head Island because it’s so dark?” said Dr. Szypczak. “Well, fate was on our side, as it seemed we easily found everything good about Hilton Head during that trip: a beautiful beach; beautiful golf courses (and we both love to golf), and the first restaurant we found was Alexander’s, where we had a great meal and a romantic walk on the beach after,” says Dr. Switak.

“We loved every minute of our three days here,” said Switak. “And we thought about it all the way back to Chicago. Once we got back, we weighed our options and compared them to what we’d seen in Hilton Head and Bluffton—not that many optometrists and a fast growing area, and a lifestyle that seemed to be a perfect match, and we decided that this was the place for us.”

That kind of foresight and the courage to act on it is what has made the partnership—both business and personal—work so well. Looking out for them both, Szypczak moved to the area in 2004 and took a part time position in a private practice with Dr. Jim Kondor, while also working the Doctor’s office centers at the Hilton Head Island Wal-Mart and the one in Hardeeville, all with an eye toward sharing those positions with Switak once she earned her license and relocated from Chicago.

Switak arrived in 2005, and from that time on, they’ve been busy, each working six days a week, to keep building the dream together.

“We were meant to be together and meant to do what we’re doing,” said Szypczak. “We’re like two eyeballs that were trying to find each other so we can look straight ahead and see the world together.”

“Usually you get married, buy a house and then build your career,” said Switak. “But these days you have to do whatever makes the most sense. We seemed to do everything in reverse. We did the practice first, then the house and then the marriage. Opportunity was knocking and we kind of jumped on it”

Youthful energy and enthusiasm has served the couple well. They embrace the business of eye care and relish the fact that they share it.

“The private practice in Bluffton on Buckwalter Pkwy is like the dream office; it’s our second baby,” said Switak. “But we get to see a wide range of clients by being in four different places, in four different towns. That keeps us in touch with what’s going on in this business from all perspectives. Ultimately, we want to focus on great service and creating long term relationships with our patients and their families.”

Adding to that great service, they recently added the capability to craft lenses in their own in-store optical lab, providing one-day glasses service at the Bluffton office. When it is implemented in January, the Eye Site will be the only full service optical lab in Bluffton that can offer same-day/one-hour glasses service.

The Doctors want to focus their practice and their optical store management on better educating their clients about eye care and the importance of regular exams.

The old adage about the eyes being the “windows to the soul” may be a bit whimsical, but Szypczak maintains they can indeed be the “doorway to disease detection.”

Dr.s Robert Szypzak and Jennifer Switak

“Most people take eye health for granted. When we dilate the eye, we can actually look at your arteries, nerves and veins inside the eye. Sometimes these blood vessels reveal clues to your general health and can tell us if there is a possibility of diabetes, high blood pressure or even high cholesterol. Eye care is very much a type of preventative health care,” said Dr. Szypczak. Some of his favorites lines are, “When it comes to your eyes, don’t compromise, to see clearly, check yearly!”

Cindy Silvan, office manager and administrator of the Bluffton office, says it sometimes seems other professional associations have done a better job than those in optometry at educating the public on the importance of ocular health. “Good dental health means you get your teeth cleaned and checked twice a year, and your eyes should be checked yearly,” Dr. Switak states. “This is especially important in children, as the most important eye exam in your life, is your first, preferably before the age of four to help prevent lazy eye.” Both Switak and Szypczak are making efforts to engage local schools and health care providers to understand how eye care can help prevent and detect systemic disease, while also preventing developmental delays in children.

Dr. Switak and Szypczak are both participating InfantSee providers, which is a program that offers free eye screenings to infants under the age of one to help detect major eye development problems.

The seriousness of disease detection is tempered with the light-heartedness of both doctors’ and staffs’ approach to patient care. The Bluffton office even has a library for kids, with books about eyesight. There is a jar of Eye-Ball Golf Balls on the counter with a label stating “Eyeballs of those who misbehave!”

Even the doctors make fun of the all-inclusiveness of their busy schedules these days. Your work will spill over into your personal life, so they figure, why not have fun with it. Dr. Szypczak wears a pair of eyeball cufflinks, and in their spare time, the Doctors are avid bowlers, with “eyeball bowling balls” that glow in the dark. Being weekend golfers, they are sure to use their office’s promotional eye-ball golf balls, which look just like an eyeball, only with a coupon printed on it. Dr. Szypczak claims that this way when he loses an eye ball golf ball he doesn’t feel so bad as it is like free advertising!

Dr. Szypczak also plays on the Eagles Bluffton Baseball team and plays softball with a team of local eye doctors called the “No-See-Ums.”

Dr. Switak and Dr. Szypczak, the optometry team with too many consonants, represent a literal and figurative marriage that works on all fronts. Having both husband and wife in the same profession has helped them advance quickly in their field. Dr. Szypczak states that “I couldn’t do it without my amazing wife and business partner.”

They’re enjoying their “eyes all the time” lifestyle, with a 20/20 vision of their future together.

For more information, visit theeyesiteofbluffton.com or call (843) 757-9588.

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