Quite the Partnership: Drage and Tozer Celebrate 25 Years of Providing Eyecare in Sudbury
If you were buying a bag of pick’n’mix in Woolworths on the 30th November 1995, whilst perusing the music chart section at the back of the store, you would have seen that the partnership of Robson and Jerome were crooning away at the top of both the album. In singles charts Oasis and Blur were battling it out to be crowned Kings of Brit-Pop.
It would still be a full seven months before the world would be gripped by ‘Girl Power’-fever and the Spice Girls. However, girl power was already taking Sudbury’s North Street by storm, as a few doors down from Woolworths independent opticians Drage and Tozer opened their doors for the first time.
Helen Drage and Sandra Tozer, supported by long-time staff member and practice manager, Janice Felton, quickly gained recognition for their excellent customer service and patient care. They also became a well-recognised institution on the High Street thanks to their eye-catching window displays.
Throughout their successful 25 years in Sudbury, the practice has grown to accommodate its growing team and to better serve its patients, moving to occupy Siam Place in 2015.
We caught up with Helen and Sandra to find out more about what it was like to set up shop in Sudbury in 1995?
Reflecting on those early days, Sandra, now retired, said:
"I look back fondly on 1995 when Helen, I and our husbands worked evenings and weekends getting the North Street premises ready.
"On a tight budget, we fitted the practice ourselves with one consulting room. The team still enjoy seeing lots of patients from those early days who have remained loyal to our ideals of providing community family eyecare."
They both recall the first day where they stood waiting nervously hoping new patients would come in and vividly recall the excitement when their first patient put their head round the door and said, "I didn’t realise there was an opticians here" before booking an appointment.
Lots of these first patients have returned to Drage and Tozer for their eye care. They have cared for generations of families and many patients have become friends.
The team routinely go above and beyond for patients, hand delivering spectacles to patients that are unable to visit the practice due to mobility issues or illness or during the coronavirus outbreak
We asked Helen, what the recipe is for building a successful business that serves the community and keeps people coming back? She points to the team:
"Our reputation is solely due to creating an atmosphere where our team can shine and provided excellent service and patient care, so lacking in life these days.
"Our enduring mission is to provide caring family community eyecare and we’re able to do this thanks to our excellent staff. We’re proud of our loyal team that has grown over the years. They remain passionate about the business ideals whilst enjoying family run working ethics and have made true friendships at work."
"It has been a privilege to work with so many amazing people at Drage and Tozer over the years. Now retired, I watch from the side lines, but I am especially proud of all they have achieved this year working under the cloud of the global pandemic to continue to provide the highest standards of care and customer service."
Sandra and Helen in front of the Practice on North Street wearing pink in support of the Breast Cancer Now charity. 2004
25 years of innovation for the benefit of patients
In addition to excellent patient care and service, the other enduring theme of the Drage and Tozer practice is their commitment to bring the best in technological advancements to patients. This started from day one with digital cameras, an advanced technology in 1995, to enable patients to visualise and compare their new choices of spectacles on their face without the need to squint into a mirror.
Today the practice continues to invest in the latest diagnostic equipment. In addition to retinal photography, they can provide OCT ocular scanning - usually only found in hospital eye departments – which allows accurate earlier detection of ocular conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
25 years in support of Sudbury
On top of providing the best care and technological advancements they can to their patients, Drage and Tozer also directly support community initiatives such as local sports teams, business owner groups and the local chamber of commerce. As well as sponsoring the family area at the LeeStock music festival and taking part in the Town Centre Elf Trail this Christmas.
Drage and Tozer Opticians has outlasted the Spice Girls, Britpop and even Woolworths. And will go on to outlast COVID-19. This might not have been the celebration year they wanted, but their recipe for a great team providing excellent patient care and customer service will mean there will be many more celebratory years to come.
Here’s to another 25 years of success!