In 1930 Mr Lionel Coleman purchased the well known long established De Carles Chemist in St Augustines Street in Norwich. As well as a retail pharmacist it was also a large wholesale chemist business supplying lemonade crystals, bun flour and Lungene cough medicine among many De Carle brand products. St Augustines in those days was a major shopping street so unlike how it appears today.
During the war Mr Coleman, already a qualified pharmacist, completed his training as an Ophthalmic Optician (now more commonly known as Optometrist) and established the Optical practice in the adjoining premises in 1945. One of the first prescriptions made up was one from the Norfolk and Norwich Eye Infirmary for a Mrs Ivy Steward and included the warning that the patient should not pay more than 7/- (35p) for her glasses.
The optical practice remained fairly small but together with the pharmacy and a photographic business (established later) continued to trade from the same site.
In 1964 Lionel’s son Peter Coleman began his studies at Aston University in Birmingham to train as an Ophthalmic Optician and following graduation, qualified in 1968.
By the 1970′s the chemist side of the business was declining and with the Opticians business increasing, Peter Coleman decided to close the Chemists and move the Opticians into the larger premises.
Peter Coleman’s first Ophthalmic Optical student was Mrs Alison Fish, who after qualification in 1979 has stayed with the practice. In 1981 her husband Mr Lester Fish joined the practice. Alison and Lester bought the practice from Peter Coleman in 1998.
Peter Coleman officially retired in 2002, but did not complete stop testing until 2005. Even today he can still be seen occasionally in the practice enquiring about a new piece of equipment or chatting to a patient about their spectacles.
Following in Peters footsteps Lester took on an optical student in 2000. This student was Helen Hillis who not only went on to work for Lester for the next 11 years but bought the business from him at the start of 2012. She did this with Katie Fenn who had worked for Lester since qualifiying in 2004.
The Opticians name has changed several times over the years but has remained in the same location. Initially the Optical practice had one consulting room used once or twice a day, but in the late 1980′s the premises next door was re-acquired to enable the business to expand to it’s present size with four consulting rooms. A further testing room was added upstairs inn 2011, allowing examination of up to 60 patients per day.
The practice has been in the news over the years. In 1997 a ‘Which’ survey of varifocal spectacles picked those supplied by Coleman Opticians as their favourite pair. In 1999 the practice was the first in the area to achieved the quality award of ISO 9001-2000. In 2002 the practice won the prestigious national Rodenstock Centre of Excellence award and for the past 11 years has been Rodenstock national Colormatic practice of the year. The practice went onto win the Centre of Excellence award again in 2011 and very much hopes to regain its trophy back again in the not too distant future.
The Practice’s role was initially to supply spectacles but today it also uses the latest technology to examine and monitor the health of the eye. The practice was one of the first to be able to refer cataract and glaucoma patients directly to the Hospital Eye Clinic for treatment avoiding the need to see a Doctor first.
Quality eyecare and affordable eyewear has been the motto for this succesful business celebrating very nearly 75 years in St Augustines Street.