Columbus, Ohio USA
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Art in and around the eye of the beholder
By Karen Edwards
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Daniel J. Koch, O.D.
photo / Doug Fordyce
Architect? No - scratch that. O.K. Something in the health sciences, maybe. But what? Dentist? Veterinarian?
Daniel J. Koch, O.D., came to his optometric practice the same way most of us slip onto a career path - by exploring his interests (see above), assessing his skills, and selecting a profession that combines them both. Optometry proved to be a good fit for the wiry, soft-spoken, Akron-area native. He likes science, handles math without difficulty, has a penchant for service, and has worn glasses since the third grade. (Yes that's important- optometrists with glasses somehow seem more credible to those of us with fuzzy vision than optometrists with perfect eyesight.) After volunteering in an optometric office one summer, between his junior and senior year in high school, he knew he had found the right career path.
Koch attended The Ohio State University College of Optometry, graduating in 1984, and then completed residencies at the VA hospitals in Chillicothe and Columbus. During that time, he also served as a clinical instructor at his alma mater.
Since then, Koch has been meeting the needs of the nearsighted, farsighted, and everyone in between - first at his own private practice in Westlake, Ohio, then, with an ophthalmology group specializing in refractive and cataract surgery.
In 1997, Koch returned to private practice - this time in Columbus. He had been a frequent visitor to the city (his sister lives here), and he had been attracted to the Short North then - for its diversity, arts, and urban setting. Koch finally moved into the area in 2000, and opened Columbus Eyeworks, his smart and very hip optometric practice at 1127 N. High Street.
You may have passed his flashy neon sign at the corner of Fourth and High a hundred times- a glitzy blue-and-silver trapezoid that replicates the 1953 sign from one of the building's former tenants, the Caravan Bar. Step inside, however, and you know you're not in Kansas anymore.
"What people notice first is the floor," says Koch. "They always comment on it." No wonder. The polished, tricolor wood floor was laid new; its glossy surface a counterpoint to the brick wall spanning the shop's north side. Large windows, track lighting, maple cabinetry, art - if you feel as though you've stumbled into a swank Soho boutique, it's no accident. Koch travels to New York annually with Columbus Eyeworks optician Ryan Hays to select frames and the newest vision-testing equipment. You figure the Big Apple had to rub off eventually.
Koch has set three priorities for his practice: "I want people to leave here saying, 'That was the best exam I've ever had,' 'I love your frames' and 'I was treated well.'"
Chances are you will be treated well here. Very well. Columbus Eyeworks has a policy of seeing clients within five minutes of their arrival and providing service during hours that are convenient - to clients.
As for the exam, Koch offers complete vision care for both adults and children, but because of his location, the typical Columbus Eyeworks customer is between 30 and 32 years old, and either attends one of the city's universities, or works for a living. That's why one of the instruments Koch uses regularly during an exam is a computer vision tester.
"Most characters we see in print have a sharply defined border. That's not the case on a computer screen," says Koch. "The edges trail off, so the contrast of the characters actually have a bell-shaped curve." That makes the eyes work harder to come into focus. The computer vision tester measures how the eyes focus - clinically, "lag of focus or accommodation" -in relation to computer text, so that adjustments can be made in the lens prescription. The result? No more computer-fatigued eyes.
Another factor Koch considers when computer-users complain of eyestrain is the client's blink rate. "Studies show you blink less when you look at a computer screen," he says. At Columbus Eyeworks, patients with low blink rates can receive "blink coaching" to help alleviate the strain caused by that fixed gaze.
Once the vision exam is complete and a prescription determined, the fun begins.
Who wouldn't love the frame selection at Columbus Eyeworks? The choice is huge, hip, and hand-picked by Koch and Hays with an eye to style and trends.
"One of the things we offer that large chain stores don't is a selection with an edge," says Koch. "We try to have products that not everyone carries."
Columbus Eyeworks features frames from more than 20 design firms, including Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Prada, and the oh-so-British Booth and Bruce. If you're more Francophile than Anglophile, look for frames by Lafont, and if you're more inclined to buy American right now, Zip + Homme offers styles from New York's trendy Soho. Retro-lovers will love the vintage '40s, '50s, and '60s frames, and if you're really looking to make a statement, opt for laser-cut, buffalo-horn frames that are so lightweight (and hypoallergenic since they're made from all natural material) that Koch selected a pair for himself.
"We obviously care about how our clients look," says Koch, "because, whether they know it or not, they're walking billboards for our frame selection."
The frames are such works of art, they easily justify a stop on gallery hop night - but they're not the only reason to pay a visit. Koch also offers his workspace walls to various artists, who display their work here three months at a time.
"It started when the Acme Art Company was next door," says Koch. Prior to one of last year's gallery hops, Acme ran out of wall space for its exhibit, so Koch loaned them his. It worked out so well, Koch decided to display art regularly.
Lately, he says, he's seeing more visitors coming into his practice on gallery hop nights. "It used to be hard getting people this far north," he notes. But with the arch lights (even unlit) defining the Short North's northern boundary and new businesses, like Scully's Diner, opening nearby, traffic has increased. "There's no question that the lights make the area more cohesive," he says. "Despite their troubles, they've been a good investment."
So was Koch's move to Columbus. Despite a lack-luster economy, a summer of Short North construction, and a managed-care environment that has driven some health-care practitioners from business, Columbus Eyeworks is doing well.
That's good news for Columbus, and good news for his clients. After all, Koch is licensed to practice in Colorado as well, and as a snow-ski enthusiast – well, one might think he'd be tempted to move.
"I thought about living in Colorado at one time," he admits. "That's why I got my license." And, as he explains, Colorado is one of those states where it's easier to schuss down a mountain slope on a skinny pair of waxed boards than it is to obtain a license to practice optometry. "Once you have it, it's just easier to maintain it than give it up and go after it again," he points out.
But Koch's not harboring any thoughts of moving to Colorado (or anywhere else for that matter) anytime soon.
"I like Columbus and the Short North," he says. "Right now, I'm happy where I am."
Columbus Eyeworks, the optometric practice at 1127 N. High Street* offers complete vision care and a huge, hip selection of frames hand-picked by Koch and optician Ryan Hays during their annual trek to New York City. Hours are Tues; Thurs 11-7, Fri 10; 6, and Sat 10-4. Call 614-421-2020. Visit their Web site at www.columbuseyeworks.com
* Note: Moved to 25 W. Hubbard Ave. on January 27, 2009.
©2003 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.
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