Passion! When Lucie talks about her job it is with a palpable sense of passion. And it’s so much more than a job for Lucie —it’s a calling, a vocation and a way of life. She talks with such confidence, authority and positivity that demands your attention. It’s easy to see why she is so popular and why she gets such spectacular reviews.
“I have a great experience when I come here. Life’s about relationships. At Tudballs over the years we’ve laughed together. Cried together. Been happy. Been sad. It’s the personal touch. It’s like a family!” Andy Eisenträger
“I have been a patient with Tudballs for over 15 years, and to be honest, I would not consider going anywhere else – they are unfailingly professional, courteous and responsive. I don’t have a straightforward prescription, and sometimes have lots of questions, but they always listen closely to my queries, and give me the information I need.” Louise Warburton
“Great service from this independent optician, friendly and very helpful staff, a professional service, which is never rushed in any way. Highly recommend, Tudball Opticians. I have never received such great service from an optician.” Simon Gready
It all started fourteen years ago when Lucie was asked to supply cover by John Adams who was the former company director and the man behind setting up the original Tudball Opticians in Portishead. Lucie had always worked for independent opticians and small businesses and loved working in the Clevedon business so when John and his partner wanted to sell, she jumped at the chance to take it over.
Lucie is thriving in this close-knit community of independent shops on Hill Road which boosts the community it serves and adds such character to the area; she values the camaraderie and support offered by the other shop keepers and which was so important during the lockdown. She also loves the shops themselves, she jokes about Indulgence Chocolates and Pale Blue Clothing being at the opposite end of the road, any closer and she’d be having serious problems with her bank manager! However, Dom and Alex at Vintage & Vine are dangerously close and if you see a “Back in 10 mins” sign on the door, that’s where she can normally be found.
Lucie loves her patients and has created such a warm, welcoming, personal culture that sees them remaining with her and bringing in friends and family members.
I asked her how she felt she differed from other opticians and her answer reflects this culture:
“I really know every single one of my patients. They’re like a very large extended family and that was always important to me that people felt they knew me and the team, that they see a familiar face and someone that knows their full history so we can make the best decisions about their care. It’s part of why I wanted my own business, to build those relationships. We’re not a faceless corporation where you’re just considered a number in the queue. My patients come in for a chat or to introduce me to visiting family members or just for a hug with Alfie. Being a community optician is about knowing my patients and caring for them not just seeing them for a sight test appointment yearly”
Lucie spoke just as warmly about her staff when I asked her about her biggest supporters:
“My biggest supporters are my staff past and present. Familiar faces like Linda and Josh pop back to help out when I go on holiday; my A team of admin staff, Lis and Jean who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for more years than any of us care to think about; my wonderful social media angel Fleur; my audiologist Andy who I worked with for many years before owning the business; my two wonderful optometrists Heather and Jay that have such a loyal following; and my fellow optician Sue that pops over to cover when I’m on holiday. The business wouldn’t have survived without each and every one of them! Oops, nearly forgot to mention the Practice Manager Alfie the dog, by far the most popular member of staff.”
Lucie only ever employs fully qualified opticians and optometrists and she has invested heavily in the latest technology for their usage. Her admin team leaves plenty of time for appointments with these staff so that discussion of the results is relaxed and no one feels under pressure. The optometrists at Tudball undertake all the tests themselves which is so important because the results of one test dictate the following tests and only a qualified optometrist can make those decisions.
Lucie’s commitment to her patients is indisputable and her forthcoming ‘Designer Frames Day’ on August 20th is about listening to each and every one of them and being sure that she is tuned in to what they are looking for and what is most important to them. She will be showcasing hundreds of frames that people can try on and compare without the pressure of buying. I’m sure it will be wonderful because Lucie has a real passion for finding something different and quirky that’s as individual as the person wearing it. You will not find many of her frames in the high street chains.
Lucie spends considerable time with patients once she has their prescription which in itself has a huge bearing on the lens choice; never more so than since the pandemic and the change in people’s needs, with so many opting for working from home. Happily, the top lens companies have really understood that challenge and there are lots of new lens designs available that take this into account.
Conversation with patients focuses on what they want to achieve visually as well as taking into account such features as their personality, favourite colours and facial characteristics. It is most certainly not a ‘self-service’ process but it’s an exciting process and brings huge satisfaction to everyone when the patient walks out of the shop happy and confident in their new, eye-catching glasses.
Just like fashion, eyewear trends and styles have changed considerably over the years and I asked Lucie about current trends, she commented that:
“….. the current fashion within optics has definitely changed in England over the last ten years or so with us following the European trend for colour, lots of wonderful colour and individual styles.”
This won’t of course be to everyone’s taste which Lucie acknowledges with her wide selection of brands and styles ranging from the big and bold to the ‘barely-there’, minimalist frames – something to suit all prescriptions, tastes and budgets.
We talked about her biggest challenges and successes, the former being, not surprisingly, the pandemic! For several months opticians were restricted to seeing only emergency cases and all routine eye care had to be put on hold. She wasn’t sure that people realised that it’s the opticians that fund the majority cost of NHS sight tests so it was a very frightening time trying to keep the business afloat.
Deep cleaning and restricting numbers within the practice became a top priority throughout the pandemic. As a diabetic, asthmatic with a heart condition Lucie knew all too well the importance of keeping the practice and staff Covid free. Throughout our conversation, Lucie was very keen to stress just how crucial the support of the other shopkeepers and her patients was to her during the pandemic. It was their empathy, positivity and optimism that saw her through what she describes as the most challenging period of her career.
Lucie is really enjoying welcoming patients back in a more relaxed way and is very appreciative of their positivity about the renovations that she has made and it’s these wonderful renovations that she undertook during the pandemic that she counts as her most recent success. Lucie was keen to establish a positive first impression and wanted that first important step for her clients to inspire confidence and trust. She wanted a stylish, relaxed, intimate environment that appealed to all the senses; an environment that people enjoyed visiting and was conducive to spending time and exploring the beautiful frames. A different experience to the high street chains.
Lucie has most certainly achieved this with a great relaxing playlist, sophisticated décor, beautiful greenery and the luscious smells of the Clevedon Candle Company. And of course Alfie, the ridiculously happy dog there to welcome every single person who walks through the door!
It’s such a good idea to have Alfie as a permanent presence in the shop because as well as breaking the ice and providing a happy distraction, he could actually be helping with the release of those happy hormones that can play a part in improving your mood. Research has revealed that the simple act of petting animals has been shown to release an automatic relaxation response and trigger the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin – the mood boosters.
Interestingly, so many of Lucie’s reviews mention Alfie:
“Amazing service as always, thank you for making sure Jacobs glasses fit perfectly. Jacob loved hugs and kisses from Alfie as well.” Mel Ford
“First visit to Tudball and I would highly recommend. Lucie is fantastic, giving individual and friendly service. I’ve never been to an optician as good and will definitely be back. It was lovely to meet Alfie too! Thank you Lucie and Alfie for making it a great experience.” Emma Jewkes
I was curious as to how Alfie came to be there and whether it had been with the intention of him enhancing the patient experience. Lucie explained that Alfie, a ten years old working cocker spaniel, started coming to work with her as a puppy as she didn’t have anyone to walk him on a Saturday. However, he proved such a hit with everyone that he started coming in daily. Alfie is particularly popular with older patients that perhaps live in care homes and can no longer have a pet but also with children with additional needs that may find the opticians a scary, daunting place to visit.
Lucie is hugely grateful to George and Thea at Clevedon-based BowWow Dog Service who come and collect him for daily exercise with all his little friends. Lucie described Alfie as being a very calm, chilled pooch that just wants to cuddle everyone. He’s even helped a couple of patients overcome their fear of dogs, including her Mum who counts Alfie as her 6th grandchild.
Lucie’s concern for the health and well-being of her patients is clearly evident but I wondered how she herself switched off and looked after her own health, particularly her mental health. Lucie is a people person and spending time with family and friends, a well-acknowledged strategy for good mental health is top of her list! Her immediate family in this country include her mother and brothers and sister. She also has five niblings (a new word for me) that she loves spending time with – Phoebe, Charlotte, the twins Percy and Dora and her newest nephew Theo.
Lucie also has very strong, positive relationships with friends and it was one of these good friends that reignited her passion for skiing, which she had loved so much as a child. Said friend, an account manager for one of the lens companies, arranged a group ski holiday which has since become an annual event. In between times, they meet up regularly for dog walks and pub lunches.
It was whilst skiing one year in Morzine, France, that Lucie met her partner who comes from one of the largest families in Morzine which she said made everyone out there seem to be family in some way! She also has an aunt, uncle and cousins and their families just over the border in Champeray Switzerland so she manages to get across for weekends as often as she can to see everyone. She and her partner will ski or cycle across the border to see her family in Switzerland. Spending time in France and Switzerland also gives Lucie the ideal opportunity to check out eyewear trends abroad which she loves doing.
People person she may be, but camera lover Lucie is most definitely not, which doesn’t make it very easy for her friend Fleur, one of the skiing group who manages Lucie’s social media accounts.
Fleur is always admonishing her for not appearing in photos or videos on social media but Lucie HATES being the centre of attention and cringes whenever anyone points a camera in her direction which doesn’t make an easy job for Fleur.
Fleur was Lucie’s partner for Tough Mudder, raising money for Vision Aid overseas – a 20k run with an obstacle race thrown in for good measure! She has also done lots of 10 k races to raise money too. I think it’s safe to say that Lucy is looking after all aspects of her health.
Tudball Opticians is one of the most client-focused businesses that I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Lucie is dedicated to providing a top-quality experience to everyone who walks through her door; she listens, she engages, and she reflects which builds loyalty and trust and places her in the very best position to help patients achieve their goals.
If you’d like to know more about the business and what exactly is on offer, then the link to the website is here: You might also like one of my previous blog posts “Tudball – holding their own against the big boys! The link is here:
It was such a pleasure talking to you Lucie. See you on the 20th.