Updated: Apr 8
Legacy of Hope has the privilege of partnering with some remarkable businesses and people through its Corporate Legacy Sponsor program. Omega Optical’s story is a perfect example of the exceptional people with whom we work. Read on to see why.
Navigating the stormy waters of retail can be a harrowing, often cataclysmic, experience for small businesses. But Steve and Tracy Davis, and their mom-and-pop, high-end eyecare boutique, Omega Optical, have weathered enough formidable storms over their 22 plus years in business to prove themselves more than capable as navigators. Through dogged perseverance, Omega Optical has become Philly’s first omni-channel luxury eyewear retailer. “We just didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to make it [past the first three years].” States Tracy in earnest.
Married for nearly 24 years, Steve and Tracy met at Virginia State in the late 90s. After graduating, Steve dabbled in eyewear franchises but found them too restrictive; then in June 2000 he started Omega Optical (with zero dollars) when he saw the need for eyecare in Philly’s African-American community, specifically in the city’s Cheltenham section, not far from where he grew up. Tracy shares that “Steve wanted a high-end, boutique, and friendly atmosphere in that neighborhood. So you wouldn’t need to travel all the way to King of Prussia.” When asked about starting Omega with zero dollars, Steve laughs and admits “We were pretty much building the airplane while learning to fly it.” And they forged ahead.
A year after starting, Omega Optical took a big hit to its bottom line after 9/11 because, as Steve remembers, “people just weren’t going out shopping.” Again he and Tracy persevered for several more years. Then came 2008, The Great Recession, and in spite of economic flux, the opening of Omega Optical’s second location—in Philly’s Comcast Center. Reflecting upon the recession, Steve remarks “When the ‘big boys’ stopped expanding, it gave us opportunities … we were able to access tenant assistance to fund the buildout of our Comcast location. Prior to the recession, when we were looking for a Center City (Philadelphia) location we encountered realtors who wouldn’t even take a meeting with us—even though we had pristine financials—or they’d lead us on about a location and then not even inform us after they’d rented the same space to another tenant. We missed opportunities for locations in Liberty Place and on Walnut Street because of this. We even had three investors pull out at the last minute right before we opened in Comcast Center, but we forged ahead. Sometimes when something ‘bad’ happens, a new door opens, and that’s okay.”
With their Comcast location in full swing, Tracy came aboard full-time in 2009. Up to this point, she admits “I really had no idea about the madness….I was only handling Omega’s special events—the fun stuff!” Steve credits Tracy’s efforts on the “fun stuff” with solidifying their brand among existing customers, as well as winning over new customers. “We held events every few months, and always had anniversary celebrations; we did fundraisers and helped scholarship funds;” in doing so Omega created a stellar reputation while also weaving itself into the community.
Omega enjoyed relatively smooth sailing for several years; then came 2020 along with COVID-19, lockdowns and uncharted territory. “COVID was a game changer because it forced our hand …for years we believed [wrongly] that we couldn’t sell eyewear online but without the e-commerce option, we really were like a rudderless ship.” recalls Steve. Fortunately, online retail had evolved from people’s initial apprehensions about online shopping to the point where “click and order” became second-nature. However, retail for eyewear had largely remained a brick and mortar affair, because virtual fitting tools hadn’t yet been developed, and also because some elements of purchasing eyewear required human interaction. “When Comcast Center [and Omega Optical’s center city location] shut down we knew we needed to pivot, and fast.” So Steve and Tracy partnered with Optical Near Me to launch phillyglasses.com and became Philly’s first omni-channel eyecare provider—now offering their clients the convenience of ordering online only (replete with Omega’s stellar customer service), ordering in-store at their Cheltenham boutique, or a mix of the two. Omega’s Cheltenham boutique remains as it has for 22+ years but their Comcast Center location has transitioned from brick and mortar to click and order.
Omega Optical will continue offering its usual broad selection of products, and dedicated, personalized service, “whether that client is on government assistance or a wealthy celebrity,” because Steve and Tracy listen to their clients and give them what they want. With that level of commitment, it’s not surprising to hear Tracy say that “many of our customers have become family over the past 22 years.”
Steve adds "We're here to help you develop and expand your eyewear wardrobe….some days you feel differently, and some days you dress differently. Just like you wouldn’t wear brogues to play basketball or sneakers to boardroom meetings, you should have appropriate eyewear for different situations.”
From their start, Steve and Tracy—both of whom have lost multiple family members to cancer—have been committed to giving back, and they’ve remained consistent in their charitable endeavors. So it’s not surprising that Omega Optical has become a Corporate Legacy Sponsor. Omega’s relationship with Legacy of Hope is rooted in Steve and Tracy seeing many of their friends and clients involved in Legacy of Hope fundraisers. This led to Tracy meeting Mike Rowe at the PHL24, after she came down to support her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister, Kimberly Reed, who was climbing the steps. On the heels of that Steve and Tracy started volunteering to do grocery deliveries for Legacy, even making that experience a teachable moment for their young nieces. They took things further by making Omega Optical a proud Corporate Legacy Sponsor with Legacy of Hope.
Omega Optical is a mom-and-pop shop; so it might be considered an underdog in the eyewear industry. But don’t be fooled. Omega’s size allows Steve and Tracy to provide a level of customer service that the big corporations in the industry can’t match: meticulous follow-through, attention to detail, loyalty to their customers; “it’s more than a transaction, it’s a relationship.” explains Tracy, elaborating further “Even with all the convenience offered by online shopping, there are times that people just want to buy from people, human to human. When you know there is a person behind your online transaction, you feel better, especially when they’ve taken the time to get to know you and they know they’ll get that follow-up support.” Given that they are fast approaching their 23rd year in business, it’s a safe bet to take them at their word. Cheers Steve and Tracy! Here’s to another 23!