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Cross-eyed Optical--Am I reading that right?
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By Haydn Jensen


I once heard a comedian say that opticians would get more business if their store signs were made using a fuzzy font. Charles Lee, owner of Cross Eyed Optical has fun with his sign too, but his store name actually includes a sincere message along with the humour. He likes that it is hard to forget--that's good for business. However, the name actually came to him when he heard a youth conference speaker saying "Be Cross Eyed for Jesus." Charles recalls, "In my mind I said if I ever open up an optical I would call it that: Cross Eyed. We opened our store in September of 1997 with this name Cross Eyed Optical." The play on words suggests we fix our attention on Jesus and his sacrifice for us (to be "cross eyed").

As any London business owner, Charles welcomes all sorts of customers. But, this does not prevent him from playing popular Christian worship music in his store. No apologies. Perhaps it simply gives Charles and his staff a chance to explain a bit about the name of the store. He also shared that over the years his store has been blessed by the presence and prayers of several internationally known Christian leaders. Personalities include motivational youth speaker Reggie Dabbs, Joshua Revolution Founder Michael Chorey, author, speaker, and evangelist Mark Cahill, and Israeli-U.S. Jewish Christian speaker/author/pastor Ron Cantor. These leaders were brought in to the store by local Christian leaders like Bob Black, Harvey Katz, John Mitchell, Stephen Cheng.

Last month, Cross Eyed Optical moved from its Richmond Row location to a new building at 705 Wonderland Road North, just a few steps north of Costco near Oxford. The store is up and running, and Charles is working hard to put some finishing touches on store display areas. Any retail store owner appreciates the extra effort required to move locations with a minimal disruption to store hours. Charles counts it as a miracle to be now in a bigger store in a brand new building.

Charles simply has one word to describe his work as an optical retailer: Blessed. He says God has blessed this business rather than taking credit himself. With similar modesty, Charles also says that his staff really make the store what it is. Of all the lessons Charles has learned since starting Cross Eyed Optical 18 years ago, one that stands out for him as a Christian business person is that whatever you are trying to hide in the closet never stays there. "Don't think you can get away with hiding anything."

There was a time when Charles was thinking about packing up the London business and moving back to Toronto. Instead of keeping that to himself, he took the matter to Christian leader Reggie Dabbs and to others for prayer. From that prayer time, Charles says he was affirmed. He says, "There is something the Lord wants me to do in London." So, Charles stayed. Perhaps he feels a connection with his uncle who, after coming to Canada in 1967, became the first pastor of a Korean church in London.

Charles also makes a connection with the creation story in Genesis. Just as God works as Creator, Charles sees what he does as creating too. "I like to create glasses. I don't like to sell glasses off the shelf. I like to customize." Generally, the fun for Charles is the big cycle of travelling to his suppliers to select the frames he likes, showing them to his customers and seeing them walk away happy with their new glasses. He doesn't worry about which products have better profit margins or which ones are hot marketing trends. Rather, Charles prefers to find out what the customer needs, gets a sense of their tastes, and then goes to work creating something they'll enjoy wearing.

For more info on Cross Eyed Optical:
www.crosseyedoptical.com