Vogue Optical, a family run business with humble beginnings in P.E.I., has sold for $74 million.
© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Corey Gray's parents opened Gray's Optical, which became Vogue Optical, at the store's flagship Brackley Point Road location. The family has sold Vogue to New Look Eyewear Inc.
Company vice-president Corey Gray calls the deal that will make New Look Eyewear Inc. one of the largest integrated optical retailers in Canada both exciting and difficult at the same time.
"The optical industry is changing a lot,'' says Gray.
"There has been a lot of consolidation in the industry. We felt it was either the right time to try to expand rapidly or sell.''
Adds Gray: "If we weren't happy with the price, we would have held on...we feel we've made the right decision.''
He and his father Wayne, who has not been involved in the day to day running of the business for a number of years, will no longer be involved in the business at all.
However, as part of the sale agreement, all Vogue Optical staff will keep their jobs including employees that have been with the company for more than 20 years.
"We have a lot of close relationships with our staff,'' says Gray.
Vogue, which has 65 stores, including five in P.E.I., and a lens processing facility, will operate as a stand-alone business based in Charlottetown, says New Look vice-chairman Antoine Amiel.
"We feel privileged welcoming the Vogue Optical team in our organization,'' Amiel said in a statement.
The combined entity will have revenues exceeding $128 million and a store network with more than 140 locations, making it the third-largest Canadian integrated retail optical company and the eighth-largest in North America.
The deal is expected to close in December.
The Vogue Optical name will remain on all its current stores, notes Gray.
The Grays still have the Gray Group, a property management and development group that own about 50 pieces of property throughout Atlantic Canada. Thirty Vogue Optical stores are on those properties making New Look Eyewear a tenant at those sites.
"We still have quite a bit going on,'' says Gray, adding he is only 40 and not ready to retire.
Wayne Gray made Vogue Optical a big success from quite a humble start.
His first venture into the optical business was with American Optical in 1965 where he worked his way up to lab manager in Saint John, N.B.
By 1971, he had become a partner in a retail store in Charlottetown, but by 1974 he and his wife Doreen decided to open their own business, Fashion Optical, in the new Charlottetown Mall.
That venture didn't succeed and Wayne was soon back with the company he had started with, American Optical, but this time as regional manager for Atlantic Canada.
A combination of entrepreneurial spirit and a longing to be back on P.E.I. prompted Wayne and Doreen to pursue their dream and they opened Grays Optical on Brackley Point Road where the flagship Vogue Optical operates today.
Doreen was a full partner in the growth of Vogue Optical until 1999, when she lost her battle with cancer at the age of 53.