Business Profile: Kelly continues family’s optical business

Story and photo by Anthony Welch

Helping people to see and making sure they have the proper lenses to do so has been high priority for Mike Kelly’s family.

His father Verle opened Kelly’s Park Hill Optical in 1971, and Mike and his two older brothers Verle Jr. and Bill followed closely in their father’s footsteps in the optical business.

“I started learning how to grind lenses in my dad’s shop when I was 8 years old,” Mike said.

He owns Kelly’s Golf Acres Optical Center, located at 1444 N. Hancock Ave. The store is just one of four independent optical retail stores left in the Colorado Springs area, according to Mike.

The Kelly brothers all cut their teeth getting into the industry working for eye doctors, grinding lenses and figuring out how to curve the back of an eyeglass lens. Mike started working for an ophthalmologist at age 19.

“I was the youngest dispenser in Colorado Springs at that point,” he mentioned.

The experience proved more than valuable.

“Working with ophthalmology, you get vast experience with what you do in the business. You understand how glaucoma, cataracts, heart problems, diabetes can affect someone’s eyes,” Mike said. “It’s not necessarily just breaking down the numbers, filling out prescriptions and making the lenses. There’s more to it than that. You have to have the insight for these things.”

Kelly relies on eye doctors to properly diagnose their patient’s vision problems. The information from the doctors is crucial when it comes time to fitting someone with the proper lenses, according to Kelly.

“Making a faulty pair of glasses doesn’t serve a purpose. Glasses aren’t cheap. They’re expensive items for anybody,” he said. “You have to wear them 365 days a year. It’s not like a pair of shoes you can throw in the corner. You use your eyes every day, every night, all the time.”

Mike’s brother Bill got out of the business years ago to pursue a career with the sheriff’s department. Verle Jr., however, still operates his own retail store. They’re the last two members of the Kelly family to continue in their dad’s footsteps.

“There are no nephews or nieces or anybody wanting to follow through,” Mike said. “It’s one of those businesses that’s hands-on, and you have to think all the time.”

That challenge, and the desire to help people, is why Mike continues to work in the business.

“Nobody’s the same. No pair of eyeglasses is the same. Every prescription that walks through the door is different. Everybody has something different about their eyes and their needs. It’s always a challenge. If it wasn’t a challenge, I wouldn’t do it,” Mike said. “At this location, we serve a lot of seniors. You get to meet some really incredible people. That wealth of knowledge you get from them is phenomenal. They have great stories. They know a lot of different things.”

Mike’s business not only supplies customers with lenses, but also offers tools for low vision needs.

“As people get older, they start losing a lot vision to macular degeneration, diabetes and cataracts. At some point, eye glasses don’t do the job, so you have to go beyond that and go into different appliances, like closed-circuit televisions and electronic magnifiers,” Mike said. “It’s always a learning experience. There are new things on the market always coming out.”

Mike also spends his Saturday’s traveling around to retirement homes and assisted living facilities in the area to provide services for seniors who can’t make it to his shop. He brings his rolling, mobile optical shop to them and fixes eyeglasses and fills prescriptions.

He’s been at the North Hancock location for just about four and a half years. On average, Mike assists around 150-200 a week at the store.

“Everything in this shopping center is senior oriented,” Mike said. “That’s why I wanted to come here.”

To reach Mike, call 719-471-7347 or email phoptical@qwestoffice.net.

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