Shopping Local with Mayfair Optometric Clinic

Mayfair Optometric Clinic is a local optometry clinic with a patient first mentality and a mission that aims to ensure all of their clients live their life with happy eyes. Here, the incredible staff know the importance of community and building relationships with customers in order for their business–and other local businesses in Greater Victoria–to thrive. We sat down with Dr. Stephen Taylor at Mayfair Optometric clinic to learn more about the passion behind his practice.

What do you think is important when considering the local aspect of your business?

“One of the things about thinking local is that in Victoria we have a relationship type of city. So you need to create relationships and have connections. I have the connections between me and my patients and my other staff members. That’s different in Victoria than in many other places.”

Dr. Taylor elaborates that he finds when larger multinational corporations come to Victoria, it doesn’t work as well.

“It doesn’t work to have your head office in Texas–not here. We almost look down on [multinational companies] because they don’t get it. Especially if we have a local company that is absorbed by a larger company that is not local, the first thing we look for is, well what are they going to do to screw it up. So for us, because we’re very much a local business, our purpose is to build those relationships with people.”

Can you tell me a bit about the history of Mayfair Optometric Clinic?

“I grew up here. I was down in the states in Portland in a place called Forest Grove for about 8 or 9 years. I wasn’t planning on coming home, but it just kind of worked out that I came back and I had an opportunity in 1986 to purchase a practice that had the same last name as me, but no relation. I was Downtown in the Sayward building at the corner of Douglas and View street. I took over from Dr. Robert Taylor.”

“Then an opportunity came up in the Mayfair Mall. Back then, Mayfair Mall actually had a business section in it, and there was a second floor…I had my office at the top of the stairs.”

At this point, Dr. Taylor explains, he had his office Downtown and his office at Mayfair at the same time.

“I was [in Mayfair Mall] for about 8 years, and one thing led to another, and we had an opportunity here across the street. It was good, the mall was going through some changes at the time, and so I took the opportunity. I was the Mayfair Optometric Clinic in the mall, but when I moved across the street we trademarked it so that it was mine. And this was kind of the Mayfair area, so hence that’s where the genesis of the Mayfair Optometric Clinic started.”

The move to their location across the street from Mayfair Mall was in 1997.

Over time, as Dr. Taylor worked between his two offices, it became evident that his Mayfair location was where the majority of his patients came as the Downtown core changed. Thus, he sold his Downtown practice around the 2000s when the Mayfair Optometric Clinic became his ultimate primary.

“We provide optometric services and eye care to the Victoria residents and have been doing so for many decades and are looking forward to continuing to do so.”

What does Mayfair Optometric Clinic provide?

“I mean, we’re a primary eye-provider in the province of British Columbia. Period. You’re coming here for your routine eye exams to do with eye health and also the retail side of optometry including contact lenses, glasses, and sunglasses.”

Dr. Taylor explains that the eye health aspect also has to do with what your eyes reveal about your body. You can see diabetes, high blood pressure, and even brain tumors occasionally, so a large part of what the clinic provides is eye health exams.

“And of course, you want people to see clearly, so that’s where the glasses come into it. That’s the practical side to glasses. There’s also the physics or mechanical side, where people are sitting in front of a computer all day and we have to make a set of spectacles for them that are for the computer and reading.”

The pandemic has changed how they tailor glasses to task-specific needs depending on the type of activities a patient does, Dr. Taylor explains.

“We’re very much tailoring to an office or work environment, to what they need. I’ll jokingly tell patients they might have the same prescription as the guy who digs a ditch but the glasses that I prescribe and how I design them are going to be different for him than it is to you when you’re sitting in front of a computer all day.”

What challenges do you face in your business?

“If you’re patient first, customer first, client first–if that’s your premise–you will be successful. But because younger generations are coming up, they do things differently, and that’s where the challenge is.”

Dr. Taylor explains that because the younger generation tends to define relationships in terms of technology, all local businesses have to find ways to create community in different ways, and this is going to be a new challenge.

He also says local businesses in Greater Victoria face challenges because a large part of our population is government workers who are paid regardless of whether local businesses and the local economy are thriving.

“There really isn’t a lot in it for them, to go out and say they’re going to support a local business…so this is our challenge, to be able to do this local thing, it’s about forging those relationships with people.”

What strategies does Mayfair Optometric Clinic use to forge those relationships?

“Personally, what we do is we forge relationships with places like the hospital–we partner with them and BC Transit…we are also out in the community, so every time you turn around you hear our name. Primary sponsor of the Royals, primary sponsor of the Harbourcats. First of all, I love doing that, but second of all, it’s very community based and you get your name out all the time because that’s important.”

“It’s name recognition. So for us, it’s just getting out in the community over and over again, and having my ambassadors out there. Sandy, Mary Lou, Michelle, Mel, all those people who look after our social media or are out in the community.”

“These relationships–it’s what I’m like, and what my wife is like, and what our clinic is like. I mean, I go to work everyday and at the end of the day, it’s like I haven’t gone to work. I get to meet lots of people, and you create relationships with them. Generally, you’re just trying to support all of those that support you. It’s all part of being a community.”

How has the pandemic made a difference in your business?

“The pandemic has certainly made a difference in things. Supply chain issues, and from an eye health standpoint there’s a lot more eye strain because of all the extra work that we’re doing inside. It’s also brought up how shopping local, and thinking local makes a big difference.”

Dr. Taylor explains that because Mayfair Optometric clinic has been lucky to still be able to provide services and be successful during the pandemic, they’ve invested back into the local community.

“If it’s local, we are going local. Within reason, anything that I possibly can get is local. I mean, I get my alcohol from the pharmacy next door, I don’t ship it in from somewhere else. Any paper or anything we need is with Island Blue, and we also used Maximum Express Couriers when we were doing deliveries. So we’ve made a really conscious effort to go a little bit further with local and it’s very much been a reciprocal relationship.

“What would’ve happened during the pandemic if we all didn’t have these resources to support each other? I mean, that’s what allowed us to get through. Our local resource, our local people, everybody banding together against one common cause. That’s what it’s all about.”

Can you tell me a little bit about the workplace values that make Mayfair Optometric Clinic successful?

“People who are staff members don’t leave my office. I mean they’ve been here a long, long time. I have an extraordinary crew of people.”

Dr. Taylor explains how many of his staff have been with him for over a decade and are passionate about their work and the team dynamic of Mayfair Optometric Clinic. He’s been fortunate to work with his wife, Mary Lou Newbold, who is the Chief Eyecare Officer, for over three decades who has a shared vision with him and an eye for details.

“She’s out in the community and she’s a force of nature. She just makes it happen.”

What is one of your best memories as a business owner?

“Winning the Victoria Chamber Business of the Year Award…to be nominated, and then to be put into the finalists, and then to win something like that–that means an awful lot because it ain’t rigged. We were all dressed up in tuxedos and formal wear. So that was a really cool evening down at the Empress. It was quite an honour.”

How do you think Mayfair Optometric Clinic positively impacts the community?

“We’re big into community. Myself, the doctors that work with me, and my staff have all been members of the community for many years. We support local sports teams, local social groups, and we really want to become part of the community and have done so and support it. We sponsor the Royals, the Harbourcats baseball team, we help with Our Place and their associated groups to provide eye care to those that don’t have any. There are other smaller groups that we go and sponsor as well, the list goes on and on. Sometimes it’s a patient that has a baseball team, or a soccer team. And you know, all of these organizations need support to be able to thrive and move forward, and we get some real stars out of Victoria.”

Dr. Taylor explains that they are also one of the longest running sponsors of the BC Children’s Hospital Festival of Trees. In addition, they regularly review their products to ensure they have something that fits everyone’s budget.

During the pandemic, they also did something unique:

“We went around and purchased a couple thousand dollars in gift certificates to local restaurants. Because we had some supply delays, we would give patients a gift card to a local restaurant when they came to pick up their glasses.”

Related to community, when asked about any favourite stories, Dr. Taylor said:

“What makes me feel good and makes me know that we’re doing our job right is when I go to places and somebody comes up and says, ‘I know who you are.’ We go to a Royals game or a Harbourcats game, they come up and thank us for our support. Or a small local sports team that comes by with a picture of things that we’ve done. It makes us feel good, it’s mission accomplished.”

If someone had never heard of Mayfair Optometric Clinic before, what is one thing you wish you could tell them?

“Comprehensive, inclusive, community, quality. People go to a doctor’s office expecting a high level of care, and you’re going to get it if you come to the Mayfair Optometric Clinic, I mean that almost goes without saying. It’s just more than that though. We are a local business and we provide services to the community, and we are a part of the community, and we would like to proceed with that. We would like to be the place to go for individuals to come in for their care and to know that they are supporting everything locally. We’re not affiliated with anybody else other than just the community of Victoria.”

Is there any special ingredient to keeping Mayfair Optometric Clinic as successful as it is?

“That’s easy. What makes our clinic great is our staff. We have great doctors, we have great staff, and I’ve had staff with me over a decade. They don’t leave. They enjoy working with us. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work, and they love to work with us. Those staff create relationships with patients and clients over the years, and they become good friends. You see it everyday. That’s a very big thing.”