Eisenbrei Plaza Optical is the quintessential definition of a family-owned, family-run small business.
Mark Eisenbrei and his wife, Loretta, currently run the business started by his late father, Maurice. His mother, 91, only recently stopped keeping the books for the business.
“We moved from Massillon to Canton in 1957, and my dad started the business in 1963. He had Clarkins Optical before that,” Mark Eisenbrei said.
When new owners took over the store, Maurice Eisenbrei decided to launch his own practice, his son said. His optometrist of 33 years, Dr. Barry Proud, went with him.
Maurice Eisenbrei opened Eisenbrei Plaza Optical in the 30th Street Plaza, where it stood for 36 years. When the building was demolished, the family moved the business to its current site at the North Plaza at 1130 30th Street NW.
Mark Eisenbrei started working for his father part time in the mid-1970s, while attending Kent State University where he earned a degree in music education. After graduation in 1977, he decided instead to join the family business full time.
Eisenbrei said his father taught him how to treat customers with honesty and respect. An avid bowler, Maurice Eisenbrei sponsored 17 local teams. Today, Eisenbrei Optical supports “Eyes on Art,” which showcases art by such local artists as Mark Stack, Cantonology, Vintage Frame Affair, Hello Lovely Signage, Wilma Levengood, Whitney Schaffer, Carolyn Jacob, Tina Lawver, Tracy Brewer and Dirk Rozich.
They’re also partnering with Brewer for an “animals in glasses” calendar to support the Palace Theatre and are patrons of the Canton Symphony Orchestra.
“My father was a lover of people,” Eisenbrei said. “He drew people because he was honest and forthwith. That’s how he built the business. We had a deep clientele. I think if we were starting as a new business, it’d be harder.”
Eisenbrei said his parents also taught him the value of good customer service. The store has an on-site optometrist, Dr. Angela Barber, and carries more than a dozen lines of eyewear.
“I wanted to offer a little bit of everything,” he said.
“We try and look for things that are different,” Loretta Eisenbrei said, adding that their collection includes an Italian designer that exclusively serves independent stores.
“It’s not just ‘Here’s a pair of glasses and we’ll see you in two years,’ ” Mark Eisenbrei said. “It’s not just the sale, it’s what you do after the sale … The biggest thing we do is we offer a lot of our own eyeglasses. I cut and edge the lenses here. Ninety-nine percent of places send the work out, and a lot of it is going out of the country. Sometimes, it’s tied to a lab because of insurance purposes, but 80 percent of the jobs, I do here.”
Loretta Eisenbrei met her husband when the Eisenbreis used to eat at Knight’s Restaurant, where she worked for 10 years. Eisenbrei’s four siblings also have worked at the business before retiring.
“I wanted to keep it going,” Eisenbrei said. “I love the patients.”
Eisenbrei Plaza Optical will host an open house, “Seeing is Believing” from 4 to 8 p.m. December 7. Frames will be 50 percent off. To learn more, visit Eisenbrei Plaza Optical on Facebook.