St. John residents can soon look forward to receiving eye care right at home.
Dr. Craig Friedenberg, a practicing optometrist in the Virgin Islands since 1980, is bringing his experience to St. John with the opening of St. John Eye Care, located next to Dolphin Market, this week.
Friedenberg opened his own practice, Island Eye Care, in Charlotte Amalie in 1983. He split his time between the St. Thomas practice and a Christiansted office.
“I was in St. Croix about two days a week and St. Thomas three days a week,” said Friedenberg. “I leased out the St. Croix practice, because the St. Thomas practice had grown so large.”
In 1998, Island Eye Care merged with Pearle Vision. Friedenberg eventually sold his shares in the company last year.
“I have been harboring this secret desire to come over to St. John since about 1980,” said Friedenberg. “Back then, I couldn’t get my suits dry-cleaned, and there was no drug store — it was like a barren wilderness. With all the changes that have happened in the last five or 10 years, a little light bulb went off in my head when I sold my shares with Pearle.”
St. John Patients Have Positive Attitude
“I thought, ‘gosh, I think this island could support an eye doctor now, so I’m going to let them — with pleasure,’” Friedenberg added.
Friedenberg always enjoyed examining his patients from St. John, he explained.
“The old timers here on St. John give you the chance to prove your worth,” said the optometrist. “It’s almost like a small town country feeling, which has blossomed over the past 10 years or so. I always liked the niceness of the people; they were always fun to examine because they had such a positive attitude, and they still do.”
Friedenberg plans to bring several quality services to the island, he explained.
Quality Lenses, Extensive Exams
“We’ll make glasses at the office, and I’m going to get all my lenses from the states, where the quality is very high,” said Friedenberg. “We’ll be doing eye exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and I’ll probably be doing referrals to ophthalmologists, especially for things like cataracts and glaucoma. Of course, the exams will be fairly extensive, health-wise.”
Friedenberg will also offer something appealing to island visitors — sunglasses.
“This is a highly visible location,” said the optometrist. “I think I’ll get a lot of tourists buying sunglasses. Somebody coming off the ferry can walk here pretty easily.”
St. John Eye Care’s location will also be convenient for Friedenberg’s St. Thomas and Tortola patients, he explained.
“I expect to get some old patients from Tortola and St. Thomas,” said Friedenberg. “Over 25 years, you build up a following. I’m going to buy lunch for those patients.”
While almost everything on St. John is expensive, eye care doesn’t have to fall into that category, Friedenberg explained.
“Everybody thinks St. John is really expensive, so what I want to try to do is have fairly fair rates — they may be a little lower than the average rates on St. Thomas,” said the optometrist. “I’ve got high end stuff for the group of people here who will demand it, but I also want to have things that won’t break people’s budgets. I think this is a little different concept for St. John.”
Gratitude of Patients
Friedenberg, who will maintain his residence on St. Thomas and will likely travel back and forth on his private boat, will be open to suggestions from his patients, he explained.
“What I’ll try to do is be open to what people suggest,” said Friedenberg. “Being on St. John is sort of like a new thing for me, so I’m really open to what the people want.”
In addition to quality services at fair prices, Friedenberg will bring his love of optometry and his positive attitude to his St. John practice.
“I really enjoy it,” said Friedenberg. “The reward of gratitude is real pleasant.”
For more information or set up an appointment, call St. John Eye Care at 779-2020. Walk-ins are welcome.