Grandview optician has a flair for selecting the perfect frames for her eyeglass customers.
Barbi Tuckerman sees differently than most people.
The owner of B. Tuckerman Unique Eyewear constantly finds herself assessing people's faces and mentally fitting them for eyewear.
"I have an innate ability-I can look at a face and tell you what frames you need to wear," she says.
Her customers and vendors agree.
"She knows what will look best on you even before you put it on your face," agrees Julie Honeycut, a brand ambassador for Theo Eyewear. The company, which is headquartered in Belgium, is one of Tuckerman's most popular brands.
Tuckerman stocks eyewear from high-end companies around the world. With more than 3,500 frames in the store, she also offers more variety than many shops,
Honeycut says. Frames range in price from $450 to $3,000. Lenses are an additional cost. Tuckerman does not take insurance but will help customers fill out the paperwork so they can receive reimbursement from their insurance companies.
Tuckerman prides herself on knowing every piece in her inventory. She wants customers to sit and relax while she walks around the store pulling frames from drawers and shelves; she does not want customers choosing frames.
"I don't let clients pick out frames," she says. "They're not professionals. I am."
Once Tuckerman has made her initial selection, she sits down with customers and has them try on the frames.
They often end up buying the first frame Tuckerman selects, says her assistant, Katie Clark. The process can take minutes or hours, Tuckerman and Clark say.
"If it's not perfect or fabulous, I just can't go there. If people want to come in and tell me what they need-that doesn't work for me," says Tuckerman, a licensed dispensing optician. "People come to me because they want me to pick out frames for them."
Patients trust Tuckerman because of enthusiasm for her work and her knowledge of eyewear, Honeycut says.
"She gets them to open their eye to color and different shapes and have fun with it," she says. "She's doing what we all kind of aspire to do: Getting more people to see eyewear as one of the first things people will notice upon meeting you. A lot of Americans don't understand that."
Tuckerman attributes her passion for glasses to her upbringing. Her father was an optometrist, and she spent her summers working for him. Later, she worked for her brother, an optometrist who owned a successful chain of optical stores.
She opened her store in Grandview Heights in 1995 with a different name. She has been in her current shop on Grandview Avenue for 15 years.
Working with her dad and brother gave Tuckerman important insights about how glasses are made. She never recommends frames unless she knows the customer's prescription, which will determine what the lenses will look like and how thick they will be. This is a critical consideration when selecting frames, she says.
"I know what the finished product is going to look like," she says. "Most people don't think about the finished product."
She also is picky about where she sends the frames to be fitted with lenses. Tuckerman says she works with multiple lens labs around the country because some fabricators do better with different types of prescriptions or shapes of lenses.
Tuckerman's familiarity with the optometry business initially drew Alice DeHoff to the shop.
"I recognized her family name and thought she probably knew the business," says the Upper Arlington resident, who has been getting glasses from Tuckerman for nearly 20 years.
Strangers regularly comment on her eyewear, says DeHoff, who considers her glasses an important accessory.
"I tell her I don't wear jewelry. This is it," DeHoff says. "I wear a lot of black so I can wear colorful glasses."
She relies on Tuckerman's expertise to find the right frames.
"Barbi has a way of putting glasses on you that give you life," she says. "They just make your face glow."
She has multiple pairs in her current prescription. She has owned some of her frames for many years. When her prescription changes, she has Tuckerman order new lenses.
Customers often update their frames with their new prescriptions, Tuckerman says. It's possible because of the quality of the frames she carries. She looks for frames that are handmade with solid parts.
She also seeks frames that have a timeless look to them.
"My glasses are not what I call trendy," Tuckerman says. "They're different. They're unique, and that never goes out of style."
Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.