It’s cliché’ but very true. When something comes to an end, something else begins. In this case it’s the retirement of Dr. Joel Zuckerbraun. The practice was started by his father, Leonard, and then passed on to Joel.
Personally, I have a deep love and respect for the Zuckerbraun docs. I have and always will credit Dr. Leonard Zuckerbraun for saving my right eye when I was 8 years old, way back in 1974. I got whacked in the right eye while playing football in my backyard, took an elbow square to the center of my eyeball causing internal bleeding. Dr. Leonard Z had the quickness to get me to an eye surgeon. End result, I came within 6 hours of losing the eye. That’s my Dr. Z story. I’m sure many of us who have been here within the borough have stories similar to mine.
Dr. Joel is now retiring. The practice will be taken over by Dr. Katina Simmons, who also is a member of our community. If all goes right, she will be the new owner as of January 2022 even though she’s been there for just about a year now getting to know the clients. The practice is also going to get a new name. It will be called “Griswold Eye Care.”
We caught up with Dr. Simmons, just after her latest vacation (and probably her last for a while) and asked her some questions about her, her business strategy, and what you can expect from Griswold Eye Care going forward.
First question… What started your interest in eye care, being and eye doctor? How old were you when that journey started?
I started being interested in being an optometrist in high school actually because I would love to come see Dr. Zuckerbraun for eye exams and everything he did seemed very interesting and exciting! So I did a presentation on him and being an optometrist in 11th grade at Griswold High School and ever since then I’ve just known what I wanted to do and that I wanted to be my own boss someday and here I am! 2 months away!
Where did you go to school and what exactly is an optometrist, how much schooling is required?
I started my career the summer after I graduated Optometry school- I only have myself a month off to recover from 4 long years of optometry school! Then I started working at Optometric Associates in Waterford, CT. That was the first private practice I had worked at. It was a great experience and taught me a lot about how private practices are run but turns out it wasn’t the right fit for me long term so Dr. Zuckerbraun was nice enough to offer to have me work here with him for a year before he retired to make the transition easier for both us and the patients!
How did you find out about the ownership opportunity here in Jewett City?
Dr. Zuckerbraun contacted me and wanted to know my plans and it just worked out perfectly!
Didn’t you bring your mother along to work there as well?
Yes she was filling in part time for Chelsea when she was on maternity leave. Now she’s fired!! hahaha
Tell us a little about your optician and the new person at the front desk taking over for Joann who is also retiring?
Chelsea is the optician. She has been with me for 3 years now. We worked together at my last office. She has been doing glasses things and insurance billing for about 10 years. Christine filled in for Chelsea selling and adjusting glasses and she is really great with people and kids and will be learning the billing side to take over for Joann! She was a vet tech for a long time before a couple other jobs and now she’s with us thankfully!
Is there an official date of the transfer
Just end of the year at this point. So technically Jan 1st 2022 but we will see what the lawyers say when we get them involved!
Was Christine someone that you had worked with before like you had worked with Chelsea? Tell us a little about her so people can get to know her!
Christine was a hire from indeed. I didn’t know her from before. She has been an excellent addition to the practice. Chelsea worked with me at my last practice in Waterford so we have been working together for 3 years. She has done almost every job in the optical industry and has been in the industry for 10 years or so. She just had a baby girl Ava and she has two dogs Mookie and Bentley. We are all dog people here!
With the change of ownership, are the office hours going to remain the same, or will there be a change, and what other changes (if any) can people expect from Griswold Eye Care
Everything will stay the same except JoAnn and Joel will be retiring. We plan to keep offering the same level of service and keep it a small family optometry practice atmosphere. The last thing I want is to change the framework Dr. Zuckerbraun and his father established here. Some minor cosmetic changes and always new glasses coming in frequently!
Do your plans include adding an additional optometrist to the practice, or keep it the way it is?
I haven’t fully decided yet. I would be open either way. I am going to keep Dr. Zuckerbraun’s office the way it is for now just in case he decides to come back part time he would of course be welcome
I understand that you are married, your husband Mark is the Recreation Director for the town of Plainfield? How long have you been married? Pets? Kids?
We have been married for 2 and a half years. We have one dog, Lexi. No kids yet. We met in college at Western New England University and he is from Woodbury, CT.
Favorite food that you can’t live without?
Nachos with guacamole or tiramisu can’t decide.
Biggest pet peeve?
Waiting in lines!
You’ve had almost an entire year to transition, What is the biggest thing that you have learned from Dr. Joel Zuckerbraun and are you ready for 2022?
The biggest thing I have learned from Joel is how to make connections with all the patients and treat everyone like family. Everyone gets the same level of care that I would give my family and friends. I am ready for 2022 and to be the owner because Joel has really prepared me well for the business side of things and of course my optometry training and work experience has prepared me also. And I know that he will always be a phone call away if I have any questions or issues.
Because of this last year, what would you most like your new customers/clients/friends to know about You and Griswold Eye Care
I would like my new patients to know that even though Joel is leaving and the name is changing we are keeping the soul of the practice the same and they will continue to get top level care and customer service here!