Flush with millions of dollars in new private equity funding, MyEyeDr., the Vienna-based chain of optometry practices and retail shops, is looking to expand.
The company, which has 47 locations in the Washington area, says it will have 60 by the end of the year. Beginning in 2014, it plans to add locations throughout the East Coast, with a goal of 200 stores.
“In the past 10 years, there’s been a lot more consolidation in our industry,” said Robert Samit, a licensed optometrist who founded the company in 2001. “If you’re an individual optometrist, you’re going the way of the local pharmacy, which has been acquired by CVS and Walgreens. It’s happening in all aspects of the medical field.”
MyEyeDr. is hoping to capitalize on that trend. In December, the company partnered with Monitor Clipper Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, to finance its expansion. Since then, the company has acquired two practices in the Baltimore area.
“What we like to do, and what we prefer to do, is to acquire existing practices,” said Timothy Gorin, vice president of business development. “It builds an instant business for us.”
Even so, Gorin said there are up-and-coming areas, such as the Mosaic development in Fairfax County and King’s Crossing in Alexandria, where it has made sense for MyEyeDr. to build new stores from the ground up.
“It’s a three-pronged approach,” he said. “It’s brand new locations, taking over and rebranding existing locations, and also doing acquisitions where we literally merge [doctors] into an existing practice.”
It’s a model that Samit, 57, knows well. In 1984, as one-hour labs for eyeglasses were becoming popular, the Bethesda resident founded Hour Eyes, a chain that he sold in 1997. After that, he founded Millennium Laser Eye Centers, now a part of TLC Lasik Centers.
Samit founded MyEyeDr. to meet rising demand for vision practices that accepted insurance plans.
“We realized that the optometry world was morphing from a retail business into a managed-care system,” he said. “I said, ‘You know what? Let’s welcome all insurance plans.’”
Today, MyEyeDr. accepts vision plans from all insurance carriers. Because the company is optometrist owned and operated, it has access to certain plans that retailers such as LensCrafters and Pearle Vision do not.
To keep track of thousands of patients with hundreds of vision plans, the company developed a proprietary software system to track appointments, medical histories and payments.
“It makes it easier for the patient,” Samit said. “They can throw away their [insurance] manuals. All they have to do is bring in their insurance card, and we’ll have all of their coverage benefits already in our proprietary system. It’s a much more efficient way to handle things.”
In fiscal year 2012, MyEyeDr. reported about $75 million in revenue. This year, it expects to bring in more than $100 million, Gorin said.
“And the year after that, we’ll have even more growth,” he said.