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Exploring Life & Business with R.J. Smart of Debonair Eyes

Today we’d like to introduce you to R.J. Smart.

Hi R.J., can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I was raised in Santa Maria, CA (just inside Santa Barbara County) during the late 80s and early 90s to two loving parents. My father was a young Optometrist, and my mother went to work with him as an Optician in 1991. I got more and more interested in the medical field after realizing my dreams to be an N.B.A. basketball player fell through (I rode the bench in a small town for three years and boy was my rear end sore). As a senior in High School, I decided to work instead of play sports. This ended up being the right move for me. After graduating High School from Arroyo Grande High School, I spent two years attending Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, CA. I spend months and months thinking about what field I should enter as a professional. I was interested in Biology but couldn’t see myself continuing for years and years University, Graduate School, and Medical School. I didn’t realize the whole time my answer was right under my nose.

My parents soon divorced, and each had their own business. One was AAA Optometric Center in Arroyo Grande, CA the other Debonair Eyes a new business in San Luis Obispo, CA. I soon had step-parents who both very much believed in me. They saw that I was bright and knew I could do whatever I put my mind to. One suggested I become an optician and go into business for myself someday. For years I helped in my Mother’s store, eventually in a managing role, helping with everything from accounting to customer service and building a website. As my mother got closer to retirement we frequently talked about her retirement and her selling the practice to grow her nest egg. Finally, I thought “Why not me?!” The rest is history, in 2018 I bought my mother and step-father out of Debonair Eyes, becoming the full owner at the age of only 35 years old. I love what I do. I love styling people and their faces, I love meeting my patients and their families, not to mention all the hundreds per year I meet online through email referrals. I am truly blessed to live where I live and support my family with this business.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This was never a smooth road. There were broken relationships, struggles with raising my son as a single father through my early 20s, there was also a major struggle with alcoholism and addiction. I continue to fight to this day. Through 12-step programs and the support of family/peers, I’ve been able to overcome so much! 11 years of sobriety to this point! A one-day-at-a-time approach to life, lead by my higher power have brought me to where I am today. I no longer have to be in control, I trust the process, I trust in others, I love the work. I’m here for my community and fellows in any capacity that I can be. I love to give back.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Debonair Eyes?
We are an Optical Shop that sells both RX and Non-Rx eyeglasses and sunglasses. We have been in business for over 22 years now (opened pre-summer 2000) and are near the San Luis Obispo, CA airport. We have the largest selection of frames on the Central Coast but also have an in-house lab that can crank out lenses in half the time of our competitors. We also specialize in high RX and specialty frames like Drill Mounts, Rimless, or Wrap-Around glasses. I am most proud of my staff for continuing to strengthen their education in the field week by week. We have group discussions and carry all the latest products. Always pushing the envelope forward.

Any big plans?
In the future, we’d like to modernize the ambiance of our store and offer more products and services online. Currently, we do accept some online orders through our Instagram page or by email at debonaireyes@live.com.

One of our core services is replacing the lenses in your frame. Often we can make new sunglasses lenses for under $100 and have them shipped back out in under 24 hours.

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