One day, as a teenager working at a clothing store at the Smith Haven Mall, Charlotte Smilovich marched next door to the Pearle Vision counter, ready to complain about the incessant sound of a ringing telephone.
“I was really frustrated by it and said, ‘Can you guys please do me a favor and answer your phones, or hire me and I’ll do it.’ ”
Ms. Smilovich meant it as a joke, but just one month later she found herself doing much more than answering phones, quickly rising through the ranks to lead the store in sales.
She hasn’t looked back. Ms. Smilovich, who now lives in Mattituck, went on to work for Cohen’s Fashion Optical in Riverhead and ultimately purchased the business 13 years ago.
This month, she moved the business from the former Walmart shopping center to its new location across the street at 720 Old Country Road. It opened Jan. 4 with a small ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“It’s a whole new atmosphere,” Ms. Smilovich said. “It’s clean, refreshing and very modern. We worked very hard to get here.”
Activity at the former location, she said, had died down over several years as the Walmart remained empty. “We knew we needed to do something, then COVID kind of stopped us in our tracks.”
Despite the obstacles, she said her strong faith and support from her family have kept her motivated.
“It really is a family affair,” she said. Her husband, Raymond, can often be found crafting glasses at night after spending his days running North Fork Auto Body. Her daughter, Samantha, recently graduated from college with a business degree and is learning the business while her son, Anthony Remigio, works as a lab tech.
The new location is brighter and cheerier, with an expanded selection of lenses that allows the business to offer one-hour service in many instances.
In addition, audiology services are also available on-site from state licensed audiologist Lisa Roselli. “We’re able to now do hearing aids and hearing services that really go along with vision,” Ms. Smilovich said. “Since [Ms. Roselli] has been here, she’s already helped people get hearing aids. It’s been an amazing thing.”
Telemedicine has also become a large part of their model amid the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s a game changer,” Ms. Smilovich said, explaining that the method allows for more thorough and advanced testing technology. “These days, a lot of people just like it. They feel safer.”
Offering telemedicine will also allow them to extend hours over the next few months to remain open some evenings and on Sunday, she said, as well as supplement the three doctors on staff.
In the new space, Ms. Smilovich and her son have also unveiled a new eyewear line they collaborated on.
Over 30 years in the business, Ms. Smilovich said it’s become a passion of hers to help patients find the right pair of frames. “It’s something fun. There’s different styles,” she said.
A concept design for glasses started in 2019 has now grown into the Charlotte Rose line for women, while Anthony’s line features men’s and gender-neutral styles. The entire line is made in Italy.
“I love the fact that I can make someone feel good and confident in a pair of glasses and proud when they walk out the door,” she said.