As the world of wellness widens, it’s become a head-to-toe approach: We’re all putting CBD in our coffee, practicing meditation, and seeking more holistic medical treatment. So why don’t we pay more attention to our eyeballs? Kyly Zak Rabin and her dad, optometrist Dr. Myles Zakheim, wondered exactly that.
Seeking to provide an approachable one-stop-shop for eye care, the two recently opened their joint venture called Zak., an optometry center and eyewear shop located on Fairfax Avenue in L.A. With its cool, modern fixtures and natural wood paneling, Zak.’s decor and ambiance is the antithesis of the deeply depressing grey walls and fluorescent lighting of your average big box optometrist. Walk inside and you’ll be offered fresh carrot juice (a cheeky but practical nod to green juice culture) to sip while browsing the selection of spectacles, which include high-end glasses labels like Yuichi Toyama and Native Sons, as well as Zak.’s more affordable in-house line, which they refer to as “the white t-shirt of eyewear.” They have three frame and lens color options in six simple, and simply named, shapes: The Really Round, The Round, The Square, The Rectangle, The Cat, and The Pilot. If you order contacts in addition to the glasses, you can do so easily online. Zak. also gives insurance-backed eye exams, which involve digital retinal imaging and glaucoma and cataract screenings in addition to prescriptions for glasses and contacts. “Theoretically, you can come in for an eye exam, get fit with contact lenses, and have glasses made in about an hour since we stock a number of prescription lenses in-store.” Rabin explains.
The opportunity for a space like Zak. came into view over dinner one night about a year or so ago, when the two got to talking about the current demand for low-cost, high quality eyewear, a shift in the market that Dr. Zakheim picked up on in his own optometry office over the last several years. “As we brainstormed, it became clear that the disconnect between affordable and luxury frames was not the only area of fragmentation,” Rabin says. “Given the varying eye care services, eyewear product options and lab turnaround times, a person typically gets an exam at one place, glasses from another, contact lenses from yet a third provider or online, and their more ‘unique’ frames from somewhere else. The antiquated optometric model doesn’t seamlessly marry medical, retail, and the modern consumer.”
Having worked in the start-up world prior to launching Zak. in August of 2018, Rabin has a keen sense of how to appeal to and communicate with a mostly millennial customer. “Many people don’t understand or value the medical necessity of an eye exam,” Rabin notes. “It’s not just a function of how clearly we see. An annual eye exam can often detect systemic diseases, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or even neurological or auto-immune conditions that don’t necessarily present symptoms.” Years ago, Rabin’s father told her a story about a patient of his who came in for a regular eye exam. Her father noticed some irregularities in the testing they did and send him to a neurologist, where he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In later years, Dr. Zakheim was able to see signs that his patient was also a diabetic.
“Culturally, at the bare minimum when it comes to our personal health considerations, we typically value an annual physical and dental check,” Rabin says. “For some reason, the eye exam is deprioritized unless vision is significantly compromised.” She is also quick to point out that in this day and age, our eyes are especially fatigued and prone to irregular sleep patterns due to the fact that we spend countless hours in front of our tech devices. In this day and age, as Rabin puts it, “If you track your daily steps, get acupuncture, or practice yoga, why wouldn’t you pay more attention to your eyes?”