Published September 20, 2000
Volume 8, Number 9

Joyce Hoekstra of Hacienda Park Vision Center Knows It's Coincidence that Sometimes Brings Things into Focus

By Jay Hipps
Network Editor 

"I got into this business by accident, I really did," says Joyce Hoekstra.

It was 1974 and she had just moved to Southern California. She decided to find some part-time work and circled a few ads, one of which detailed the hours but little else about the job. 

"I didn't even know what the ad was for when I went in for the interview," she says. "It happened to be an optometrist." 

It's not the only time that a seemingly random occurrence has turned out to be an important moment in Hoekstra's life, but things started out at a much more controlled pace. 

Joyce HoekstraOne of five children, she grew up on a farm in South Dakota where her family raised pigs and cattle and tried to grow enough in the field to feed the livestock. 

"That's probably where my entrepreneurial spirit comes from," she says. "Farmers are business owners, even though I don't think they always thought of themselves in that way." 

After a failed attempt at farming shortly after her marriage "hailstorms wiped out the crops both years," she remembers she moved with her husband to Omaha, where he worked for a waste disposal company that was later bought out by Browning Ferris. 

Her entry to the working world came as a waitress, and even Omaha proved to be a bit of an eye-opener for a young woman from South Dakota. 

"The first waitress job was at a pancake house, the midnight shift/bar crowd kind of thing, so that was a little different for me," she says. "You're kind of limited about what you know about the rest of the world in South Dakota, or at least you were at the time.

"It's amazing, isn't it, where you come from." 

After working her way up the waitressing ladder, she ended up in one of the area's better steakhouses, but moved to Southern California when her husband was transferred. 

That's when her fateful accident occurred and she entered the optical field. 

"I guess I picked up on it pretty fast it's a lot of varied things," she says. "You deal with people but you're not dealing with people all day long, standing behind a register. You're making the glasses, doing the bookkeeping, the buying you do all the areas of the business, and I think I liked that right from the beginning." 

Her part-time job soon became full time and, after five years of work, classes, and tests, she earned her license as a registered optician. 

It was then that she moved again, this time to Northern California. She took a position at an optical shop in Walnut Creek, eventually moving up to manager. 

She was there for 15 years, running the business and forming her own beliefs about how to best serve her customers. 

It was in the late 80's that those beliefs began to push her towards having more of a say in how things would be done in the store. 

"The owner was not involved in the business for four or five years and I attempted to purchase the business from him then," she explains. "It was not a good situation with him not being around but still wanting to set the direction for the business, but that didn't work out he wasn't ready to sell." 

He was willing to go into a three-way partnership with Hoekstra and another employee, though, and the three opened a second location in Antioch, where one of the partners lived. They had considered Pleasanton, though, and even had lunch at the Chili's restaurant that's now a neighbor to Hoekstra's store. 

The Antioch store did well for a while, thanks in part to a steady stream of customers from a nearby ophthalmologist. In fact, the doctor had so many referrals that he ended up opening his own shop, buying out the stock from the trio's store and offering Hoekstra's partner a job that she still holds. 

Again looking for a store she could call her own, she visited a store she heard was for sale. On the way back, she decided to stop by the Gateway Square project where she had eaten lunch years before and have a look. 

"I really don't know what possessed me to do it at that point, although I always had it in the back of my mind," she says. 

It turned out to be the happy accident of her career. 

"I saw this space and I just fell in love with it," she says, gesturing at the spacious store around her. "Had there not been this space available, who knows what I would have done, but this space was just ideal for the kind of store I wanted." 

The well-lit store has the racks of frames and other products that one would expect, but there are several things that make it unique. 

For instance, even the process of choosing a frame is different at Hacienda Park Vision Center. While many stores simply turn customers loose and let them search blindly through frames, Hoekstra prefers a more guided approach. 

"The first step when someone comes into the store for glasses is to determine what's a good fit," she explains. "Any time you try on a frame, you might have to make a couple adjustments on the (nose) pads or temples to see if it fits right. Some people have a really broad bridge to their nose and some have a smaller bridge, and you want to pick the right frame for that." 

Once sizing, color, and basic style are determined, Hoekstra serves as a knowledgeable guide through the many frames she offers, which she boasts is the largest collection of designer frames in the area. 

Though once nervous about starting the business cold, with no existing customer base, she finds that she's glad that she took the leap. 

She enjoys watching the trends and will attend trade shows later this year in both Las Vegas and Paris, the latter fulfilling a lifelong dream. 

"I guess it's just the freedom to make the decisions," she explains. "I'm making a living doing it, having my own business. It's enjoyable." 

And that part's not an accident at all.

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