Meet Me at Whalley’s Corner: Whalley Optical Centre
In this instalment of the continuing series about the community in City Central, we stroll down King George Boulevard to Whalley Optical Centre, a long-term family-owned shop that has been providing expert eye care in the neighbourhood for decades.
When you walk into Whalley Optical Centre, on 107th and King George Boulevard, in the historic town centre of Whalley, it feels like any other optical store. Rows of glasses frames line the walls and fill the display cases on the floor. Posters of models wearing designer “specs” hang on the walls. Then, Lutz Sprecher, owner and licensed optician, walks out of the back room and you know that this store different. “This is an ‘old school’ optical establishment.” Lutz says with a glimmer of pride in his eyes.
“We have our own lab where we grind lenses to fit into frames as well as carry out eyewear repairs, something that you don’t find in optical stores these days.” He adds, “We offer old fashioned service we take the time to talk to our customers, we listen to them so that we can fulfill their needs and make sure they leave thrilled with their new glasses.”
Whalley Optical Centre was opened by Sprecher’s father in 1978, back in the days when the area was Surrey’s business hub. There were four banks and retail stores all around, until Surrey Place Mall (now named Central City mall) opened and the businesses moved closer to 104th. “I was schooled in opticianry by my dad, who was an optician trained in Germany and I started working in the shop part-time.”
Lutz explains. “At the same time, I had a job in a manufacturing plant so I spent weekdays working with big machinery and my weekends working with tiny screws and instruments it was great training for manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination!” After completing his optician’s training, Lutz worked at an optical store in Tsawwassen for seven years before taking over Whalley Optical in 1991. Personalized service has been the hallmark of Whalley Optical Centre’s service for almost 40 years. Lutz and his assistant, Elfie, continue to provide that same warm, friendly attention and expert technical knowledge. “A lot of our customers have been coming to us for years.
They got their very first pair of glasses at our store when they were school-aged and now they bring their kids to us for their eyeglass and contact lens needs.” Lutz says. “We have a wide variety of frames from economic fashion frames to designer styles, and we can custom fit your choice to best fit your face. And we have a broad range of quality lens options to suit every budget.”
Asked about the most gratifying aspect of his business, Lutz replies that solving people’s visual problems gives him the most satisfaction. He shares the story of two young girls who were brought to the shop to be fitted for glasses. “These two were sisters, refugees from Syria, who had never worn glasses before,” Lutz remembers, “they were both elementary school aged and they had the poorest vision I had ever seen in a child.”
He goes on, “It was a struggle to get the funding for their glasses as their prescriptions were so specialized but it was all worth it to see the wonder those girls had when they saw the world clearly for the first time in their lives.” “Good vision is a critical to quality of life and we have made eyeglasses for people with many different needs from babies as young as six months, to people with specialized requirements, to those from marginalized sections of society.”
Lutz says, “There is no better feeling than knowing that we have played a part in providing people with the ability to see the world.” Lutz has seen a lot of transformations in this area throughout the years and he agrees that there has been a negative view of Whalley that has been slow to change.
The area is changing, growing and the trend is towards a more upscale neighbourhood with more multi-family residences planned for the King George Boulevard corridor. Lutz comments that the community, the locally-founded Whalley Business Improvement Association (now the Downtown Surrey BIA) and the city have worked together to make positive changes in the area.
The BIA’s bike patrols, for instance, have helped the neighbourhood feel safer and the many business-sponsored community events have worked to bring more people to the area. “With the RCMP office right next door,” Lutz jokes, “We have the safest parking lot in town!” After 39 years in the neighbourhood, Lutz plans to continue to “deliver a fresh outlook in eye care,” from his store in the historic district of Whalley’s Corner. The next time you are shopping for new glasses or contact lenses, visit Whalley Optical for that old fashioned, one of a kind service you’ve been missing.