With expansion plans afoot Northampton’s oldest opticians at the top of Abington Street shows no signs of slowing up after celebrating its centenary yesterday.
Mayor of Northampton, Councillor Penelope Flavell, was among those attending the celebrations at Sheinman’s Opticians last night as the eyecare and eyewear specialist marks its 100th year.
Guests were greeted with a catwalk display of spectacle styles from each decade throughout past century, which has seen the business grow from a small house practice - to one of the largest opticians in the UK.
Owner John Sheinman, who took over in 1964, said: “I’m very proud to be celebrating this milestone.
“Throughout its 100 years, it has proudly remained at the forefront of ophthalmic research.
“It’s always been about presenting all our patients with the latest technology and long may that continue.”
The opticians on Abington Street began life in 1915 as the practice of one of the founders of modern optometry, and part secret agent, Albert Edward Turville OBE.
The practice began in the sitting room of 108 Abington Street, which was a mainly residential area at the time.
Mr Turville went on to an extraordinary career, revolutionising the equipment used to examine the eye and awarded with honorary degrees around the globe.
In the 1930s Mr Turville, whose imposing portrait still hangs at the opticians on Abington Street, had developed a worldwide reputation, which at one point even led him to be feted by the Nazi party in Germany.
In 1938 he delivered a speech to 9,000 people in Berlin from a lectern draped in swastikas. However, leading a double life as a spy, Mr Turville was also gathering intelligence for the British Secret Service during this time.
But in the early 1960s Mr Turville found an eager young understudy,the recently qualified John Sheinman, who began working in Northampton by commuting from his home in London.
By 1964 a 23-year-old Mr Sheinman took over the practice.
“We found each other easily,” Mr Sheinman said. “We had the same ideals, the same philosophy.
“We both believed we were here to preserve people’s eyesight and improve it and to keep looking for ways of doing it better. Like him, I was never satisfied.”
Mr Sheinman has since carried on in the same vein of innovation and gradually expanded the practice to the extensive space we see today. In 1986 he expanded into a neighbouring former health store and then, ten years later, he expanded into a 135ft long carpet warehouse.
“I thought I must have been absolutely mad,” he said. “It was already one of the biggest practices in he country.”
Now Mr Sheinman, a grandfather of six, with a love of jazz add athletics is planning to extend the premises even more into the former residential garden area to the rear.
At the age of 75, he said: “There is as much ambition and excitement within me as there has ever been.
“I don’t think I will ever retire.”
Now Sheinman opticians finds itself with more than 40,000 customers on its database and can boast the most of the most advanced “wide-field” retinal scanner in the world.
The opticians also boasts an impressive record for retaining staff - with 18 of its past and present workers having ben employed there for 20 years or more.
“Although the testing and treatment of eyes is now extremely hi-tech and computerised,” Mr Sheinman said. “Many of the principles invented or developed by Mr Turville are still incorporated in the electronic equipment of today.”