Artistic optician creates business for everyone

Published 12:37 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bob Green of Alabaster has the beard and jolly personality of Santa Claus, but the business mind of Lee Iacocca.

Green, owner of Alabaster Optical and Hearing Aid Service, has been in business for 33 years in Shelby County. His first office space was a 10 x 14 foot office under some stairs in the Jessup Building. He later advanced to his present location on First Street North in Alabaster. He had only $300 to his name when he started the business and he had to borrow on a 1969 Chevrolet pick-up truck to get that.

With his wife of 25 years, Doris, his son William and their two Shitzu puppies Harleigh and Roe they keep the business all in the family. William has been going into work with his dad since he was 10. When asked what it’s like to work for his dad he sternly replied, “No comment.” Then after a quick chuckle he responded, “It’s wonderful.”

From the minute you walk into the store you are greeted by name and usually asked about your family, your job or how your day is going. It is that friendly small–town spirit that is rare these days.

Bob Green is to Alabaster what Floyd Lawson the barber was to Mayberry. Ironically, Bob has also been an optician to the stars.

He designed Dolly Parton’s glasses for the movie Nine to Five, painted a guitar on Country Music Hall of Fame Member Roy Clark’s glasses and designed glasses for the Gatlin Brothers. He even painted an intricately colorful Indian Chief with headdress at the request of a real-life Indian Chief. The glasses were later featured for their uniqueness in a magazine in Great Britain. Bob drew it free-hand, etched it with a nail and painted it with strands of his own hair. Roy Clark’s guitar was small enough to go on the lens of glasses, yet it had his name and the trademark Gibson on it too. Bob said he used to do the tiny ornate work back when his eyes were good. I told him those tiny paintings are probably what made his eyes bad. Don’t feel too sorry for him though, he has plenty of glasses to choose from in his store.

My favorite Bob story is of a little girl whose mother brought her to see him. She would not wear her glasses because all the children at school made fun of her. So Bob had the vision to paint her name on one of the lens and a tweedy bird cartoon character on the other one. The little girl loved wearing her new glasses and was the envy of everyone at school. When their parents called wanting him to paint some for their children Bob told them he couldn’t.

“Tweedy bird was only for that special little girl,” Bob said.

During my visit, customer Rachael Haynie told me she has been doing business with Bob for 30 of his 33 years.

Bob says the secret to his business success is “You’ve got to change when it’s time to change. You have to get with it and stay with it.”

While the industry and its technology might have changed and the times might have changed, there is one thing that has remained the same – Bob Green for 33 years in Shelby County.