Carry On eye testing as Shrewsbury optician celebrates 20th anniversary

A Shrewsbury optician opened in 1995 by Carry On and EastEnders Queen Barbara Windsor is celebrating 20 years of looking after local eyesight.

The chirpy Cockney star cut the ribbon when Vision Express opened its doors in the town’s busy Pride Hill Shopping Centre for the first time.

And while Babs is no longer the formidable landlady of Albert Square’s Queen Vic Vision Express are still there and so is owner Paul Brindley, who with business partner David Parkinson opened the first franchise Vision Express in the UK in Shrewsbury.

Paul estimates they have done more than 150,000 sight tests since they started and that they now carry out up to 250 a week.

He said: “Barbara Windsor was great. She really threw herself into it. She was giggling away and lots of people came to see her.

“It certainly put us on the map – people knew we were here and our only problem was crowd control.

“We were busy from the start and there was a big demand because of the one hour service – we offer both the high quality service and the speed that our customers value.

“To this day we work hard to provide comprehensive sight tests, along with a wide selection of frames and contact lenses.

“Because we still have a lab on site we can still do what a lot of others can’t – you can have an eye test, which takes about 30 minutes, choose your frames and have them ready within an hour and the same goes if you’ve got a pair of glasses you like and just need new lenses then we can turn that round inside an hour.”

The store, on the upper level of the Pride Hill Shopping Centre, now employs 17 staff with up to five opticians.

Paul is a chemistry graduate who teamed up with his childhood friend, David Parkinson – the pair had known each other since they were four years old – a trained optometrist who is now Clinical Manager at the Shropshire Diabetic Eye Screening Programme at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Kevin Lockwood, Manager of the Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside Shopping Centres, said: “Vision Express are a real Shrewsbury success story and a brilliant example of providing a high quality service which is readily accessible.

“They’re a real fixture here in the shopping centres, have a tremendous amount of customers and I’m sure they will be here for many years to come.”

Paul added: “We’re proud to have a long standing team, many of them with over 10 years of service, and others who’ve been with us since day one.

“We’re privileged to have loyal customers who’ve chosen us for their vision care for many years, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their valued custom.

“Over the years we’ve saved people’s sight and helped customers with life-threatening conditions by diagnosing a problem they didn’t realise they had and fast-tracking them to hospital.

“It shows just how important is to have a regular eye test, every two years or once a year if you’re affected by diabetes.”

The store, on the upper level of the Pride Hill Shopping Centre has up to four optometrists, with over 100 ways to test your eyes, to assess how they are working and help detect serious conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma and increased risk of stroke.

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