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article imageThe Captain of Eyewear

By David Silverberg     Aug 2, 2005 in Lifestyle
Digital Journal — The first thing you notice about Karim Hakim, founder of eyewear juggernaut Hakim Optical, are his naked eyes. Where are the specs?
“I have pretty good vision,” Hakim admits. “But I need glasses for reading small print in bad light.”
It makes sense that the president of this 39-year-old Canadian company should own at least one pair of glasses, considering he has sold around 26 million pairs in wholesale and retail. Hakim Optical’s trademark orange signs hang above 100 outlets in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and even Florida. Nearly 80 per cent of its clientele are repeat customers.
Hakim’s accomplishments began when he was 10 years old, honing his skill as a lens grinder in his native Iran. After enlisting in the Iranian navy at 19, he continued to ply the trade in Germany and Switzerland, and then arrived in Toronto, Canada to open the first Hakim Optical on Elm Street.
More than 60 customers lined up to buy glasses every day. “Business mushroomed because these people brought family and friends,” Hakim recalls. Customers were attracted to Hakim’s affordable prices — back then, glasses cost only $20 a pair.
Today, Hakim strives to keep prices low by giving away free frames to customers. How can he do this? “At one point, I had several hundred thousand frames in my warehouse, so I wrote them off to postpone the taxes on them,” Hakim explains. “I gave away free frames, something no one had ever done before.”
An Eye for Fashion
Besides being cost-effective, glasses should be fashionable — an often neglected factor. “Your frame complements your personality,” Hakim says. “Just like clothes, your glasses and your face shouldn’t clash.” These days, popular eyewear styles include smaller frames and lenses, “so you look only a little pregnant, not fully pregnant,” Hakim adds. Square and rectangle lenses are also gaining steam, especially among urban hipsters.
Along with variety, customers look for service. Successful eyewear companies like Hakim Optical offer one-hour glasses manufacturing at the on-site labs.
Burgeoning technology can also help business, and Hakim has always kept pace with eyewear advances. Lightweight, sun-sensitive Transitions lenses darken with increased light; Xtreme Widefield lenses offer dynamic vision with seamless shifting from one viewing zone to the other; Unbreakables are made from polycarbonate impact-resistant plastic, ensuring a thin, light and scratch-resistant product.
Besides standard eyewear, other Hakim products include UV-protected contacts, prescription sunglasses, and stylin’ protective glasses. Hakim’s products have earned him several awards, including the 2003 Consumer’s Choice Award for Business Excellence and several readers’ poll awards from the Toronto Sun, Toronto Star, Now Magazine and eye Weekly.
All Work and Some Play
Credit the head honcho for setting a strong example to employees. Hakim works 12 hours a day in his office — down from 14 hours a day, in the early years. “If you only work eight hours, you can never get anything done,” says Hakim, concisely summing up his work ethic. After toiling for four decades, Hakim is now reaping the benefits, relaxing on his 40-metre yacht or swimming in his own indoor or outdoor swimming pools.
He deserves the break. Hakim has helped make sure Canadians see the world clearly.

This article is part of Digital Journal's national magazine edition. Pick up your copy of Digital Journal in bookstores across Canada. Or subscribe to Digital Journal now, and receive 8 issues for $29.95 + GST ($48.95 USD).
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