The couple have two daughters - Drew, age 13, and Nina, age 10 - and and 8-year-old son, Cole, who informed everyone on the Enterprise's recent visit just how close the business is the family's home on North Eckar Street: "109 steps."
Having two businesses inside one storefront is possible because of the relatively large and unusually versatile space they occupy. Formerly the offices of an interior designer, the 800-square-foot space is divided into a retail eyewear and sitting area, a semi-private eye examination room, and separate offices for the two businesses.
After working for the last 16 years for various optometrists, Bernstein felt the timing was right to strike out on her own. She became a licensed optometrist in 1993 at the New England College of Optometry, and as a doctor of optometry (an O.D.) she can prescribe glasses and contact lenses and diagnose and treat particular eye diseases. At Squint Optometry, she will also help customers or patients pick out their eyeglasses frames.
"It's different than a regular store with a counter and a salesperson behind it," she said. "I want the store to be warm and inviting." Upon walking through the front door, customers are confronted by a bust of Michelangelo's David wearing a pairing of glasses, which Bernstein said she changes daily.
The couple moved in and began building store inventory in early July. About one week ago they took down the 'Coming Soon' sign and officially opened for business. Along with prescription eyewear, Squint Optometry will also sell non-prescription sunglasses and "ready readers," which are high-quality reading glasses. The couple estimate that the price range for frames is between $65 and $350.
Despite the scary nature of new business ownership today, Debra Bernstein is sanguine about the prospects of doing business on Main Street and believes that local residents are also. "I think people remain optomistic even in this economy," she said. "People just desparately want Main Street to be successful." The couple have lived in the village for 12 years.
Around the same time Debra Bernstein was contemplating her own business similar thoughts were simmering for her husband. Ken Bernstein is downsizing his corporate life, leaving the Manhattan law firm where he has been partner for the last 10 years in order to be close to home and have greater freedom. "I think the quality of life is better working for a smaller company," he said, "and working locally is gratifying." Bernstein, a graduate of the Columbia University Law School, will continue to specialize in intellectual property and general business law, but said he is capable of focusing his services to "take on whatever are the local needs of the village."
Bernstein has been chair of the Irvington Business Improvement Committee (IBIC) since it formed in February. This coalition of 16 Irvington residents confer periodically to propose ways to boost the village's commercial vitality. Recently the committee has proposed a measure to allow merchants to sell goods on the sidewalk of Main Street, an activity that is currently prohibited in the village. Bernstein said the public can weigh in on this topic when it is addressed at a village board meeting this Monday, Aug. 17.
The IBIC is also working with the recreation department to permit a kayaking vendor to operate off of the Irvington waterfront. "I think Irvington needs a more diverse mix of businesses," Ken Bernstein said. His wife agrees. "I think people want Main Street to be a place where they can do multiple things at the same time," she said.
Business hours for Squint Optometry are Tuesday, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., Wednesday, 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., and Thursday - Saturday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. While the business is closed Sunday and Monday, Bernstein said she will make appointments for eye examinations on these days, or after hours in the evenings. Call 231-7557 for appointments or other questions for visit squintoptometry.com.
Ken Bernstein, attorney-at-law will not have regular office hours, but is flexible and can meet with clients seven days a week. He can be reached at 231-7556 or by visiting kbernstein.com
Reprinted with kind permission of the Rivertowns Enterprise Journal[X] close