Oldest Broad Street retail business closing its doors

May 17, 2019 chris
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By Sarrah Peters

News Editor

In 1975, Juanita Moman opened an eyeglass dispensary called Moman’s Eyecare at 227 Broad Street. Moman’s Eyecare has the distinction of being the oldest retail business on Broad Street. Now, after 44 years in business Moman’s is closing its doors.

Juanita’s inspiration to open Moman’s came from her love of fashion. Sandy Moman Smith, Juanita’s daughter and the current owner of Moman’s Eyecare, said that her mother liked to match her glasses to her outfits. Eyecare was already a bit of a family tradition.  Juanita’s father had been a horse and buggy optometrist, who traveled around to help people with their eyesight. Before opening Moman’s, Juanita worked for an optometrist in Gadsden. Juanita’s love of fashion and her eye-care background inspired her to open an eyeglass dispensary, which provided more styles of glasses, but clients had to bring a prescription for the lens from an optometrist.

“A dispensary for glasses is like a drugstore,” said Sandy Moman Smith, Juanita’s daughter and the current owner of Moman’s Eyecare. “After you go to a medical doctor and get a prescription, you go to a drugstore or pharmacy. So, a dispensary is somewhere you take a prescription for lenses and can choose from a wide variety of frames.”

Moman’s was always a leader in style, offering glasses frames from a wide variety of designers, some of whom she had the opportunity to meet, including Gloria Vanderbilt. Famous Italian eyewear designer Sophia Loren actually invited Moman to visit her.

In 1985, Moman’s moved just a few doors down into its current storefront at 221 Broad Street. Moman’s added optometry services in the early 2000s. Sandy’s daughter Karen Vanoy joined the family business as its optometrist, making the glasses dispensary a true family affair with three generations of women working at the store.

Moman was one of the first women to have her own business in the eye-care industry and made sure to leave her mark on the profession. She received the Optica Maestro Award (Master Optician of Italy Award) during a ceremony in the Piazza Vechio, in recognition of 25 years (at the time) of excellence in her business. Moman was named one of the U.S. Optical Industry’s “50 Most Influential Women” in 2003, and she served as Chairman of the Guild of Professional Opticians of America. In 1979, Moman was selected by the Opticians Association of America as one of the best examples of the use of public relations in small business. Moman passed away in December of 2014 at 90 years old.

Now ready to retire, Smith said that the time has come for her family to start a new chapter of life. Vanoy, now a mother, left the business a few years ago to follow a different path.

“It just seemed to be the right time,” said Smith.

The store’s last day of operation will be June 15, but the staff will remain available at the storefront for its customers until June 28.

Smith sent a letter to inform Moman’s customers about the store’s upcoming closing and bid farewell to the many people that supported the store throughout the years.

For Smith, saying farewell has been difficult, and she knows she will miss many of her customers. She said that since the letters went out Moman’s has calls, letters, gifts and visits from many of its loyal customers.

“It’s more about people than selling glasses,” said Smith.

From the beginning, Moman’s aimed to support the community. Moman was a strong supporter of the local Chamber and gave as much as she could to the community by sponsoring ball teams and other local organizations.

Smith also wanted to thank her staff, most of whom have been at the business for many years, for helping to build the wonderful legacy of Moman’s Eyecare.