Meredith Walton, OD, of Heights Optometry in San Diego, California, had dreamed of opening her own practice since her undergraduate years. She took her time, however, paying her dues as an optician during school and then volunteering to see patients at a Naval Hospital in Naples, Italy, while her husband, Mark, was stationed there. When they were assigned to move to San Diego, she worked in an ophthalmology practice that specialized in LASIK and cataract surgery.
The demand to move around proved to be a boon to the Waltons, though, and Dr. Walton recalls the opportunity to learn in different areas. “Working in a variety of settings was an invaluable experience,” she says. “It also reinforced for me that private practice was where I truly wanted to be.” When the Waltons purchased their first home in San Diego, she knew it was the perfect opportunity to open her own practice in their neighborhood. Everything was falling into place. “A beautiful space in a historic building had just come up for lease,” she says, “so the timing could not have worked out better.” The Waltons were also expecting their first child, and Dr. Walton decided to use some of the down time of her maternity leave to lay some groundwork for her cold start.
When it came to the look and feel of her budding practice, Dr. Walton had a clear vision. “I knew that I wanted the Heights Optometry vibe to feel more like a hip neighbor’s house rather than a stiff clinic,” she says. “My vision was for the office to be comfortable, welcoming and professional yet offer a pressure-free experience for our patients. It was important to me for the shop to feel open.”
As it turns out, a minimalistic approach was key to this look. “We are mindful to keep our look simple and not over-brand. We streamline our in-store advertisements and we remove barriers between customers and our selection of eyewear products,” she says, “Our goal is to present ourselves as the eye doctor people want to come to, and I think that comes through in our design.” Dr. Walton has found that their emphasis on patient experience has become the defining point of their business.
In terms of physical traits of the office, the unique furniture from the Waltons’ time in Italy catches people’s eyes—no pun intended—and attracts those passing by to check out the shop.
WE ARE FAMILY
A highlight to the practice is its ability to connect with the community. “There is always something local going on. From our business association to our neighborhood association– there are street fairs, festivals and events that are easy to get involved in that are a lot of fun.” At the end of the day, the desire to work for their community—a phrase familiar to many ODs—is their priority. “We love being a part of and serving our community.”