An entrepreneurial husband-and-wife duo has their sights set on building a successful optical business.
Last month, A Young Kim and Taeksun Nam opened the doors of Eye Define Optical, located at 954 St. Mary’s Rd.
It’s the beginning of a vision and a dream for Kim and Nam, who hail from Seoul, South Korea and currently rent an apartment in Southdale.
Kim, who was a fashion designer in her native country, is currently training to be an optician with the Opticians of Manitoba, having previously worked as a dental assistant after studying at Red River College as an international student.
"We are now just starting to develop the business and get the word out," Kim said.
After graduating from RRC in 2005, Kim returned to Seoul to organize the couple’s immigration. She returned to Winnipeg two years later with Nam, a qualified optician in Korea. He is now learning English and helping with maintenance and other tasks at the store.
West End resident Helen Hill, who has known Kim since she first arrived in Winnipeg in 2002, believes the pair is the first Korean optical store owners in the city.
"Usually, any Koreans that come here have restaurants or convenience stores. Best wishes to them to do very well, as it was their dream to come here," she said.
Hill is a retired English as a second language teacher (ESL) who taught at St. John’s High School and Sisler High School. She began teaching Kim the language after a chance meeting outside a church.
"It was a cold winter’s day and I went there for a class, but the door was locked. Helen saw me, as she was waiting, too, and we’ve been friends ever since," Kim said.
Janet Metcalfe, an optician at Eye Define Optical, said the ambiance and decor inside the building is different to other optical stores.
"It’s very different to lots of the stores, which have a sterile feel. It’s very warm, earthy and welcoming and there’s lots of wood. It’s not a huge space, but you don’t feel cramped or overwhelmed," Metcalfe said, noting the first six months is toughest time for any new business.
The St. Vital resident said the atmosphere also makes her job more enjoyable.
"People so far have been very receptive, especially as we have lots of one-of-a-kind frames. I love showing them to people. I’ll say ‘Look at this, look at this.’ I’m like a kid in a candy store. We’re not selling and pushing people out the door. We’re building a relationship."
Rae Metcalfe, the store’s administration manager, said are "looking at every angle" to be all-inclusive, noting the business is already doing social assistance billing.
"Other places look down on (individuals on social assistance), but we don’t. We’re not segregating them because they’re on assistance," said Metcalfe, who lives in Elmwood.
"I think A Young and Taeksun are very brave people to come here and start from scratch."
For more information, visit www.eyedefineoptical.ca or search for Eye Define Optical on Facebook.