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Meet Mustafa Asif of EZ Optical

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mustafa Asif.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
There are lots of good stories about how opticians got started and the reasons why they dedicate their lives to the opticianry profession. This issues spotlight is shining on Mustafa Asif, an optician who started his career in a modest family optical business which has its roots originating in India. His early experiences, his move to the U.S. with his family, his dedication to his new business and new country and his passion to helping other opticians through state association participation and leadership are a testament to a dedicated and caring optician. His story is an inspiring account of how one optician found his optical calling presented here in his own words.

People sometimes ask me, “How long have I been an optician?” and I always give them the same answer: “I was born in an optical shop.” People choose professions for different reasons. Some love what they do, some inherit it as a family business, and some like the fact that they can help humanity. For me, it was all of the above. I look back at the legacy that I am a part of today and feel proud of being a third generation optician.

My story begins in 1940 when my grandfather started his first optical shop in India. It was a time when the British ruled the sub-continent. In a land where the Hindu majority and Muslim minority were fighting for their rights for independence, my grandfather started Moon Optical. One location was in Delhi, and one was in Calcutta. As time passed and business started to become established, the political climate started to change. In 1947, India and Pakistan gained independence from the British. This meant that many Muslims who were living in India started migrating to Pakistan. He sold his business and, in 1948, moved to the port city of Karachi, Pakistan.

Here, he started his wholesale business. He introduced Altan Dubar and Algha Eyewear frames in Pakistan. These were mainly gold-filled frames made in England. In 1953, he started his retail optical store called Modern Eyewear. It was in the heart of the city, Elphinstone Street as it was called during the time of British rule. At that time, there were only a few opticians in the city. Since it was in downtown, people from all around the city commuted there to get their eyeglasses. He also introduced binoculars from Carl Zeiss (Germany) and Yashika (Japan). My father, who was in high school at that time, started working with him. Just like any student, he started learning the art of
eyewear from my grandfather.

In 1965, my father became the first importer of telescopic sights in Pakistan. Retail business was now on the rise and expanding to other cities. The clientele was also expanding and included the upper class. Foreign ambassadors, high court judges and politicians were among some of the regular patients who visited the location. In 1971, my grandfather passed away, leaving behind a student who would eventually become my teacher. My father went to the Philippines in 1983 to attend Cebu Doctor’s College and received an optometry certification. As a child, I used to attend the store and spend time in the lab that we had in the back. I would see glass lenses being edged. All lenses were edged by hand (no automatic machines!). The most fascinating thing for me back then was how a pattern was traced on a piece of cardboard, which was cut with scissors and then traced on a glass lens with a diamond tip scribing tool and hand beveled on a hand stone. In 1989, my family decided to move to the U.S. I was still in high school. We left an established business of more than 30 years to start a new one from scratch. It was going to be tough, but never impossible.

Initially, we started working on an on-site basis. My father had three bags that held frame display trays. We would pass flyers around the local community, and interested people would contact us. We took the frames to the patient’s home or office where they selected them, and then we delivered them back there once they were done. We had to decide on the name of the business. Since we made the process of buying eyewear easy for the patient, we decided to call it EZ Optical. My brother and I also helped out my father after school and on the weekends. After almost three years, we decided that we had enough customers to open a storefront location. In 1993, we started our store in Houston.

After I finished college in 2000, I started working for an engineering company. But after a few months, I decided to join my family business permanently. At first, I felt like that was not the right decision, but the fact that I was helping my father and learning from him made me think otherwise. I fell in love with the optical profession. I passed my ABO exam in 2006. That same year I traveled to China and Hong Kong with my father. We attended the Hong Kong Optical Fair and imported our own line of rimless eyewear. We were growing, and I started to introduce new and innovative ideas in the business. In 2008, it was time to grow, and we moved to a bigger location. My passion grew even more, and I wanted to give something back to the eyecare fraternity. In 2015, I became the president of the Certified Opticians Association of Texas.

I take pride in the fact that I have followed in the footsteps of my grandfather and father to stand where I am today. I love what I do and teach other opticians to become the best that they can be. When you are part of a legacy and are great at what you do, success comes looking for you, wherever you are.

Has it been a smooth road?
Every small business goes through growing pains. Even though we have decades of experience in the optical industry we had to re-establish ourselves in a new place. As a minority small business, it’s always a struggle to build that trust that the consumer has in a business. With our family’s hard work and dedication, we were able to stand all challenges and today by the grace of God we are celebrating our 25th year in business.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the EZ Optical story. Tell us more about the business.
We specialize in anything and everything that has to do with eye care. We are an independent optical, which means that we are more in control to help patients find what they need according to their needs and lifestyle. We are different than other opticals because we can offer our patients brands and lenses that some other opticals cannot. We specialize in independent eyewear brands that are not available in chain stores or other corporate locations. Our frames stylist help you find the perfect eyewear to match your personality.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Trends in eye care are always changing. As fashion changes, we will definitely see more new designs and shapes with custom colors in lens options. With the increase in digital devices, our eyes are also working extra hard. The new lenses are being developed that will filter out the harmful blue-violet light that is damaging our eyes.

Pricing:

  • Single Vision Polycarbonate lenses with UV Coating and Scratch Coating start at $69.00
  • Complete pair of glasses with plastic Transitions lenses – $139.00

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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