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New Ulm Medical optical shop to close

Ophthalmology Assistant Sarah Sonnek (left) and Specialty Clinic Supervisor Jodi Henningson (right) stand in the NUMC Optical Shop, which will be closing its doors for the final time Friday, June 28.

NEW ULM – After 10 years in operation, the Optical Shop at New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) will be closing.

The Optical Shop is located in the clinic side of NUMC. For the last decade, the shop offered a wide variety of eyeglasses. The main customers were those who visited NUMC for eye appointments, but anyone could browse the selection of frames.

However, based on recent purchasing trends, Allina Health made the decision to close the Optical Shop effective Friday, June 28.

“Even though we’re closing our retail Optical Shop, we’ll continue to offer full ophthalmology services, including eye exams and eye procedures with Dr. Natalia Kramarevsky at New Ulm Medical Center,” said Katie Slette, director of Regional Clinic Operations in a press release.

Until the Optical Shop closes in two weeks, there is a 50% off sale on all frames and accessory items. Ophthalmology Assistant Sarah Sonnek and Specialty Clinic Supervisor Jodi Henningson are managing the shop during the last few days.

Since the announcement of the closure, the shop has been seeing an increase in customers. Sonnek said many of the NUMC staff have been dropping in as well as other local customers.

The closure is a bittersweet transition. The shop has been part of NUMC for a decade, but it was no longer sustainable.

Henningson said the reason for the closing is related to staffing challenges as well as low sales volumes. It was determined NUMC did not need a dedicated shop to sell glasses. On the bright side, there are other options in the New Ulm area for those seeking eyeglasses.

“There are three other places in town where people can get glasses,” Henningson said.

The Optical Shop worked to stay at the forefront of new trends and advancements in glasses. Sonnek said there were always new innovations with eye glasses. The latest advancement was progressive lenses. The progressive style of eyeglasses allow a person to see at all distances using the same pair of glasses. The top part of the glasses is for far-away objects, the middle is for intermediate distances and the bottom for close-up. There is no line separating the lens as with bifocal or trifocal lenses.

Sonnek said the sides of the lens are less likely to be blurry. This increases a user’s peripheral vision.

“It offers more forgiveness in eye movement,” Sonnek said. “There is a less blurry edge and a smoother transition.”

In addition to improving sight, the Optical Shop has seen changes in the style of glasses. The physical appearances of glasses are often as varied as the customers.

Sonnek said the current trend in eyeglasses is plastic material with transparent frames and larger lenses. This is a change from a few years ago. Sonnek remembered a time when people wanted solid black frames with smaller lens. Now customers want frames in a variety of colors.

Sonnek believes the change is because people no longer want understated glasses. People treat glasses as another part of fashion.

“Glasses are part of the outfit now,” Sonnek said.

The shape of the lens varies from person to person. Certain lens look better depending on the shape of person’s face or skin color.

Henningson said it was common for customers to come in with someone else to give an opinion.

“They need someone else to say ‘yeah, those look right on you,'” she said.

Henningson said even though the shop is closing, they will continue to honor all warranties after June 28. If a person has an issue with their glasses, they will still be able to call the Optical Shop and make an appointment to get replacements.

Patients who need to access medical records to purchase eyeglasses and contacts can access their medical records by logging into their online Allina Health account or calling the health information management department at 612-262-2300. 

Until the Optical Shop closes on June 28, the Optical Shop will keep regular hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday. No appointments are necessary; walk-ins are welcome.

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