Paradise Optical redefines its vision for the future

AIEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Paradise Optical in Aiea celebrates a half-century in business next year. Over the decades, this family-owned shop has seen big changes.

In our "Small Business in Hawaii Works", we talk to employees about the company's humble beginnings and their vision for the future.

Darrell Choy always knew he'd go into the family business. Paradise Optical has been helping customers see more clearly since 1963. That's when Choy's dad, Richard, opened his first store on Hotel street. He expanded - becoming one of the original tenants at Pearlridge Center.

"He would say to always look for the small details, because they were the hardest to see," says Choy.

The business has weathered competition, most recently from chains like Lens Crafters and internet companies. In early 2009, as the recession hit, they weren't sure they'd survive - and were forced to move to Waimalu plaza.

"Being 25 years in a mall location to now, outside location, besides looking for new products, pricing, marketing, the most important is: it made us reflect," says Choy.

They did some soul-searching. Pattie Miyashiro has been with the business for 30 years. "After we moved to Waimalu, it was something where we had to redefine ourselves, find ourselves again."

The downturn opened their eyes to what was most important. "In the depth of the recession, my co-worker, Pattie, said, 'You know, everybody is struggling, especially the non-profits. We have to start giving back.' so, so we did," explained an emotional Choy.

Although their business was struggling, they sponsored a fundraiser to help find a cure for autism. They're also continuing their "style parties" - special events with discounted prices for customers.

The four Paradise Optical employees have over 100 years experience between them. Most small businesses cross their fingers they can stay open as long as this store. Choy advises those businesses to be original and, even in tough times, to set their sights on giving back.

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