We first opened the doors to Prism Optics, Inc. (DBA Prism Optical Chicago) in the summer of 1991, working as an optical lab on Oak Street. We would edge prescription lenses into frames for other optical shops. We quickly moved to 18th Street and added an optical storefront. We finally settled in our current location at 3594 N. Milwaukee in 1996. Since opening, we’ve helped thousands of customers see the world better through hand-crafted lens work. Co-owner Jorge Zuniga is one of the few remaining authentic lens crafters who learned to edge lenses by hand in his teenage years from his father, who was also an optometrist.
Technology has changed, and we need to continue learning. There’s no need to edge lenses by hand anymore. However, even the latest equipment available still needs the expertise to run it. Many high-priced and vintage frames take time and patience to Rx. Knowledge of the frame material, prescription going into the frame, and material of the lenses are crucial to having a perfectly made pair of glasses. If any of these are incorrect, the frame can be damaged, or the lenses can move or warp, distorting vision.
At first, our business focused mainly on wholesale optical lab work, servicing other small optical shops in and around the Chicagoland area. Work relationships with our accounts were thriving. However, over the last 30 years, the optical industry has gone through drastic changes. It is almost entirely controlled by a massive umbrella company – forcing our business to follow its strict rules. Very few independent optical stores still operate, and even fewer labs like Prism Optical Chicago are in business.
The drastic changes in vision insurance policies mean many of our accounts were forced to utilize the giant insurance labs where they go through an assembly line of people. At any point, one person can make a mistake. The main concern in these labs is speed, which means less care is put into how the product looks in the end. Sometimes we have to order our lenses from the insurance labs. However, we have them sent uncut as often as possible to edge them in-house and ensure the end product is to our standards. For example, we once received a frame from one such lab with the bifocal lenses inserted upside down.
We are always learning from our past but staying focused on the future. Knowing the fashion world is always changing and with it new frame lines, we are constantly updating the eyewear we carry – to keep up with trends and find the best quality. Most recently, Eco Eyewear – a sustainable product using 95% recycled materials and ocean-based plastics. We love that this company cares about the environment. Prism has been trying to do our part by shrinking our carbon footprint as well. We are utilizing hybrid technology to make our deliveries and solar panels for our electricity. So the power of the sun is behind every pair of glasses we make.
What makes us more unique is that when customers walk through our door, we treat them as guests. Prism Optical Chicago is not just our store; it’s also our home, and it is part of the community. There is no commission in our work model, and we have no brand name that we push to sell. Our primary concern is what the customer wants and needs, and our priority is to ensure they leave with those expectations met.
We’ve made glasses for all types of people with varying prescriptions through the years, from actors who are filming in Chicago to someone helping a friend get their glasses repaired quickly and inexpensively. We’ve put care into every frame and lens we’ve touched. We strive to fill the vision needs of each customer and provide an excellent experience for them.