Dr. Stanley Pearle: The Original Customer Relationship Builder

Dr. Stanley Pearle

Dr. Stanley Pearle

This week one of my business heroes passed away, Dr. Stanley Pearle. Dr. Pearle was the founder and original owner and lifetime inspiration for the optical retail chain: Pearle Vision.

I started to work for Pearle Vision in 1987 when the only optical discount was in August for “Family Eyecare Month.” We didn’t have computers in the store and one hour glasses were just on the horizon. In fact, in the next couple years people would come into Pearle and say “don’t make my glasses in an hour…I want them right.”

Over the years when I would mention Dr. Pearle people would be surprised “You mean there really IS a Dr. Pearle?”  Yep and I was lucky enough to be his “date” at many company events towards the end of my career with Pearle. The company would change hands and so did leadership over the almost 20 years that I worked for the company but he and I never changed and I was lucky enough to get to “hang” with him at the annual meetings and pick his business brain.

When he first founded the company in the 60s he brought a new approach to a previously viewed medical product. He was the first to start the breakage guarantee.  Industry leaders thought he was crazy but he knew better. He knew that you needed to understand your customers and give them something of value.

I will never forget my first year with the company. I was hired as a manager for the Colerain Ave, Cincinnati location and as a sales person, was to manage a medical location in a licensed state without any optical background. It was unheard of. My peers openly criticized the fact that I wasn’t ABO certified but rather brought a customer focused approach to sales. The mere fact that I referred to the patients as customers was outrageous. (By the way – I doubled sales that first year and was promoted to regional manager – who says a customer-first approach doesn’t work?)

I attended training in Dallas – our headquarters at the time – and met Dr. Pearle for the first time. We had a brief conversation and I was suitably awed by his presence. Three months later at a regional meeting I met Dr. Pearle again and he remembered my name.

I was blown away. We had hundreds of locations and he remembered me and my background and my location. He was all about building relationships, making people feel valued and treating them as he wanted to be treated. Years later he visited my New England territory and I took him to visit five locations. People lined up to meet him, shake his hand and have him autograph the life-sized, cardboard cutout of him in their store lobby.

Dr. Pearle understood just how important the people in a company are; executives, hourly employees, franchise owners, lab workers, he greeted them all with warmth and a sincere desire to hear their perspective on the industry. He listened and engaged people. Where ever he went, he built relationships.

I will miss him greatly. And all that he stood for. He put the customer first, whether the customer was the end user, a corporate employee, franchise owner or vendor. Thank you, Dr. Pearle, for all you taught me.  Thank you for everything.

For the complete news story of Dr. Pearle passing, click here.

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4 thoughts on “Dr. Stanley Pearle: The Original Customer Relationship Builder

  1. Sophia and I just made it back from Dr. Pearle’s funeral. It’s a huge loss for the business world, especially for the optical industry.
    Thank you Debra for writing about your experience with Dr. Pearle.

  2. Dear DCB,

    I am so sad to learn of Dr. Pearle’s passing. Thank you for providing a vehicle to remember him by. I first met Dr. Pearle in January 2000, along with Larry Pollack and Pat Luzier (two of my business heros) in Las Vegas at the Cole annual laedrship event.

    I was in awe that Dr. Pearle, an icon of the optical industry, was so engaging and caring. I, too, had regular visits to the Dallas operations during which I would say “Hi” to Dr. Pearle and be amazed at how, each time, he was the same authentic human being that I met the very first time.

    Dr. Pearle was a person who will be remembered forever for those of us who had the opportunity to know him.

    With gratitude, Jim Kuhn

  3. Dr. Pearle always gave simple straightforward advise to his managers. This is what he said to me when I was given the opportunity to meet him:

    “James, when it comes to our customers, always do the right thing.”

    When you’ve been doing this as long as i have you recognize just how profound this short statement truly is.


    In memory of Dr. Stanley Pearle……the true story of a Crime of Passion:

    Anyone who worked for Pearle Vision in the late 90’s will remember Dr Pearle’s life size cardboard image that graced each of his store’s retail floors. Funny thing about his silhouette, no matter where you stood in the retail floor, it always appeared as though he was looking straight at you. It was a little intimidating sometimes, always that all-knowing grandfatherly smile.

    Anyway, Dr Pearle and his immediate family would probably be embarrassed if they knew about a certain phenomenon……..Dr Pearle was quite the sex symbol with our elderly female clients.

    Apparently they were enamored with his smile and the gentlemanly appearence of his cardboard cutout. Several of these ladies wanted to decorate their small living quarters with his image.

    I received many offers for his cutout, actually reaching a high point of $75, far surpassing Darth Vader and Indiana Jones, I’m certain . I considered making the sale but had to decline because I had already turned down several offers. There would be a riot of irate women in their 70’s and 80’s after yours truly with torches and pitchforks if he was ever discovered MIA.

    However, it was bound to happen that one of these lovesick grandmas just refused to take no for an answer. She was detained by mall security shortly after the dastardly deed had been discovered. Dr Pearle had been kidnapped.

    Her getaway was hinderd by two problems. First, she had to wait for the slow mall elevator that serviced the disabled. Secondly, it was difficult for the fragile 85 year old to clutch her victim while operating a walker at the same time.

    As I approached her she recognized me and broke down into tears. She explained that her husband had passed away six months earlier. She lived in a small home by herself and she was often lonely and scared. She had planned to place Dr Pearle next to the window so it would appear she had company and it would make her feel more secure at night. She had never stolen anything in her life and she seemed genuinely ashamed.

    What could I do? I carried the Dr. Pearle cutout down for her to the place where she was to be picked up by the city transportation service for the disabled. I handed it to her after helping her into the van. She was so very grateful.

    I would like to think that she received several months, perhaps years of comfort when she would look up from her chair and see his reassuring smile. I’m sure nobody could do it better than Pearle…..Dr Stanley Pearle.

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