103 Years of Service to the Eye Care Professions
In 1889, four men who had worked at an optical company
in Winstead, Connecticut, purchased machinery from the estate of the deceased
owner that they used to set up a small company to manufacture optical frames.
The company was called the Winchester Optical Company, named after the town in
which the village of Winstead was located.
The business continued as a partnership for a few
years. In 1901, a minister from Winstead who had accepted a call to a
church in Horseheads, New York, convinced two of the men to move to Horseheads.
Winchester Optical Company was incorporated as a New York corporation on January
1, 1902, and has been in business ever since.
At first, the company made spectacle frames and rimless
mountings out of gold. Sales were slow for the new company, and by 1906
the owners were desperate to increase their business. They convinced an
optometrist to move from Connecticut and establish his practice in Sayre,
Pennsylvania. Winchester Optical then went into the laboratory business.
The son and grandson of the first retail customer operated the optometric
practice until a few years ago.
By 1930, two branch offices, Olean, New York, and
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, had been opened. The company no longer
manufactured frames, but instead was manufacturing edgers in addition to the
main business of selling glasses. After Tom Lynch joined Winchester in the
mid-thirties, he carried edgers in the trunk of his car and delivered them as
soon as one was ordered. About nine months after he started selling the
edgers, he learned that no two of them were the same. The owner's
son-in-law, who put the edgers together, used whatever parts he could find so
there was no uniformity. If a part was broken, there was no way to send a
replacement for it. Mr. Lynch was so outraged by this that he said he
would never sell another edger, even if it cost him his job. This is how
Winchester Optical left the machinery business.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Winchester Optical added
several branches as competitor labs closed or were put up for sale. Two of
the labs, Geneva and Rochester, New York, were recently consolidated to Macedon,
The Rochester lab's roots go back even further than Winchester's do. The
original Kirstein Optical was founded during the Civil War. The
manufacturing division was eventually split off as the Shur-On Optical Company,
and the laboratory retained the name of Kirstein Optical, but was later
purchased by Winchester in 1965. The other branch that is currently operating in
Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was purchased from Bausch & Lomb in 1982.
This year Winchester Optical is 103 years old. We
would never have reached this age without the wonderful people who have been
associated with the company over the years. Any small business is very
dependent on the people, and we have been very fortunate to have great people
involved. The Lynch family involvement, which began in 1935, is better
than ever today. Tom Lynch's son, Ben, is currently President of
Winchester Optical. His two sons, Brian and Mike, work full time as lens
surfacing and finishing managers, respectively, and his wife Judy does office
work from their home. Mr. Lynch's daughter and daughter-in-law are
also involved to a small extent.
We are proud of the fact that we are the oldest firm in
the group of Top 25 labs that is compiled by Vision Monday every year. The
Top 25 list has now been published for 12 years and of the original Top 25, only
six remain as independent companies today. The others have been either
bought out or merged. We understand that large size does have some
advantages. We also think that in businesses like ours which are so
dependent on personal interaction, size can have a downside. We think it
is healthy for you to have a number of suppliers available to you, and not just
one big superlab that controls everything. We appreciate your support that
allows us to offer you an alternative to the impersonal mega-lab. As the
years progress, we look forward to continuing to serve the ophthalmic community
as an independent laboratory.