Update: June 17, 2013: From Custom Optical on Facebook – “I’d like to let everyone know that I have closed the Flowood store. This was a 2 month risk free experience. It is too confusing for my customers as to which store will I be at among other things. So glad to be back home in Fondren!”

Custom Optical has served the eyeglass needs of Fondren for over 20 years. This week, the shop has branched out to a neighboring community with a second location. Trish Hammons, a certified optician who has owned Custom Optical since 2006, now has Custom Optical Flowood at 5310 Highway 25.

Opened just this week, Hammons had simply responded to an optician closing in Dogwood. “I called, because I wanted to maybe buy their equipment or some of their stock,” she says. “Dr. Kevin Clark was simplifying and wanted someone to take over his dispensary and alleviate stress. I told him I would try. It fell in my lap like Fondren did.”

The Flowood location, alongside Dr. Clark, gives Hammons hope that, with a doctor next door, she will be fed prescriptions all day. Once she has that location up and running, she plans to return full time to Fondren. “My heart is in Fondren,” she says. “I’m not selling Fondren and not leaving Fondren. No one is taking over at the Woodland Hills location. My idea is to put someone here so I return to the original store full time.”

Hammons has been in optical business since 1976 at Royal Optical on Capitol Street downtown. Working in wholesale for the first part of her career, she was in charge of final inspections before product left the door. “When I got in retail, my passion was to diagnose inaccuracies,” she says. “I love problem solving and figuring what works for patients.”

Drilling and custom work will still be completed in Fondren. Hammons says she has more state-of-the-art equipment here. And, there’s a larger selection in Fondren. “If I don’t have the product here, I send them to Fondren,” she says. “As a matter of fact, a guy came in to Flowood this week and I sent him to Susan and he found what he wanted.”

Susan is Susan Johnson who has been with Custom Optical since 1993, working under previous owner Ralph Shows. She runs the store and, Hammons says, keeps things in line. “Customers know Susan, appreciate her and feel confident with her there,” she says. Johnson and Chip Tackett, a lab tech who recently transplanted here from Maryland, will handle Fondren while Hammons rotates between locations.

Tuesdays and Thursdays will likely be Hammons’ days in Fondren after the first six weeks. While she is nervous about having a second spot, she is confident she has made the right decision. “I never dreamed of expanding,” she explains. “But with this, I said ‘I need to try.’ I’ve been praying about it and things are falling in place. It’s a God thing and, maybe, my next step forward. I’m taking it a day at a time.”

Tackett and Johnson

Tackett Joins Custom Optical Family
“He has good rapport, he’s outgoing and knows his optics.” This is how Trish Hammons describes Gulfport native Chip Tackett who has been hired to join the staff of Custom Optical.

A military brat who has lived in all of the 48 continental United States, Tackett says he had been wanting to make the move back home for some time. I was at a point, thinking about the next ten years, and wondered if I wanted to keep with the hustle and bustle of the D.C. Area,” the 34 year-old tells us. “Under the weight and stress of daily life there, I was at a personal turning point and I’d always had in my mind and heart to come back to Mississippi and be closer to family.”

When we asked about his return, he says it’s been wonderful. “Especially in Jackson, the people are special to me,” he says. “They are able to throw down, have fun, cut loose and enjoy each other. There’s a strong sense of community.” He says Jackson personifies Mississippi’s hospitality state moniker. (People here are) friendly as any I’ve met. It’s true coming to visit and even truer living here.”

Tackett chose optics as a trade and says that field has worked out well for him. “Eye wear improves lives and looks,” he explains. “Glasses, more than ever, are a fashion statement for regular people. They create a statement and establish personality through looks. I’m able to help people and to help them create a fashionable persona.”

At Custom Optical, his first duty will be to ensure customer confidence. “That’s the challenge,” he says. “Trish and Susan have brought the service customers have come to expect it.” He recounts his first days. “I’d answer the phone and people were put off hearing my voice. My challenge is to keep Trish’s service going, the quality of the work strong, and to be a good member of the community.”

Hammons is sure of Tackett’s abilities: “He knows how prescriptions are read and how glasses are made. In knowing the end product, you know outcome. That comes with time and talent. I’m confident in Chip and his ability to serve our clients.”

Custom Optical Fondren and Custom Optical Flowood are open 9am-5:30pm, Monday through Friday. Saturdays are by appointment at both locations. Hammons says she sees future potential and a need for opening 10am — 2pm in Fondren on Saturdays.