BERKLEY HEIGHTS, NJ - If there’s one thing Mike Paone can say about eyeglasses – he’s certainly seen them all.

After all, he’s had a birds-eye view of the many spectacles that have come and gone through the doors of Suburban Optik, where as chief proprietor of the company on Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights, he has spent a career giving visually impaired customers a clearer picture of their world.

Mike Paone says eyeglasses have come a long way from the dull, boring frames that made anyone in need of corrective wear look like a geek. Thanks to opticians like Mike Paone, no one needs to hide the fact that they need glasses anymore. Instead, he says, current frames will make most wearers flaunt them.

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“Years ago, eyeglasses were more of a medical device, like using a crutch to walk,” said Mike Paone, who offers consumers a selection of some 2,400 frames from companies including Gucci, Polo, Giorgio Armani and Christian Dior. “Today, eyeglasses are much more fashionable. Every pair comes with a designer name attached. The fancier they are -- the better.”

Eyeglasses can offer insight into the personality of the fashionably conscience wearer, says Mike Paone, and, like hairstyles, have a habit of dating people; which could go as far back then to the days of Benjamin Franklin, who is credited with splitting bifocals to create the first pair.

“We just won’t find a pair of glasses for a customer,” said Mike Paone. “We want them to feel good with the new glasses they purchase. Eyeglasses are one of the first things that people notice about a person. So, it’s very important to choose eyewear carefully.”

There’s more that meets the eye to Suburban Optik, where customers of all ages, sizes and genders can locate most available prescription lenses or the largest collection of sunglasses in the area, follow up in safety eyeglass programs for local companies and find a wide variety of contacts including disposables, rigid gas permeables, toric, and frequent and daily replacements.

“Framework hasn’t changed much over the years, but lenses keep getting thinner,” said Mike Paone, whose licensed staff can process and make repairs – from measuring to grinding -- that are still traditionally done by hand. “Our competent and responsible opticians know what they are doing. They’re on top of everything new. Customers can count on our team explaining these products so that they know exactly the terms of their vision corrections.” 

When it comes to clear vision, Mike Paone says buying a pair of glasses “off the rack” just doesn’t cut it in this era where everything from groceries to hardware can be found in large, product-based showrooms that sacrifice customer service for the bottom line.

Mike Paone knows well of what he’s talking about. He’s been around the business for some three decades, starting as a high school student in his father’s practice, when horned-rimmed, aviator and Ray Bans were the celebrity look – from Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” to John Belushi and Dan Akroyd in the “Blues Brothers.”

“Every lens back then was made of glass; today it’s plastic,” said Mike Paone, who, when he wasn’t working with his father, was earning a bachelor’s degree in business at Villanova University and regularly returns to the classroom to keep abreast of advances in the optics industry. “It’s very high-tech now, versus when I started 30 years ago – and I enjoy the machinery that is involved with lens.”  

Many of the eyeglasses made fashionable over the course of his time in the business have come back to set trends today – from the  professional cubics that rest on the nose of Sarah Palin or the bigger-is-better “geek” look of Johnny Depp.

“It’s like clothing,” said Mike Paone. “Fashion trends often repeat themselves, and eyewear is no exception.”

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