*Louis Nielsen: in 2005, Specsavers acquired the successful Danish optical chain Louis Nielsen, led by its founder of the same name. As the brand was so well-known within Denmark, the stores kept operating under the name Louis Nielsen.
“When I started my career, I earned 79 DKK a week. I remember that very clearly. I was supposed to put aside 9 DKK for a holiday at the end of my apprenticeship. But I forgot about that, so I had no money saved when I finished!” Eddie laughs with nostalgic reference to the start of his career as an optician.
Eddie had always dreamed of becoming a doctor but his school grades didn’t quite match his ambition. So, Eddie decided to pursue a career as an optician. A decision he has not regretted. “My brother went to school with the son of an optician. So, I asked the father about studying in this field. He told me what the job involved and it appealed to me,” says Eddie.
Permission from his mum
Eddie was 15 years old at the time, so his parents had to apply for a permit from the Ministry of Education before he could begin the apprenticeship. “The law said that you had to be 16 before you could start and I was only 15. Fortunately, we got permission and so I started my training to become an optician,” explains Eddie.
Eddie began his training at Svend Grundtoft in 1969, which had a store in Slagelse. Most of Eddie’s time was spent grinding glasses, but over the years he was given more responsibility in the store. “The first year I was responsible for sanding glasses by hand, and not on a grinder. I had to do it all by hand. Grundtoft was quite a character, but we had a good time and I learned a lot,” Eddie smiles. “After completing my training, I found a job with the Danish watchmaker and optician Gunnar V. Jensen. I was there for a few years until I came back “home” to Grundtoft.”
Suddenly took over the store
Then, suddenly, the manager at the Grundtoft store became unwell and Eddie was asked to manage the store. This went well for a number of years, but the relationship with Eddie’s new partner didn’t work out. So, Eddie stepped out of the collaboration. A clause in his contract meant that he could not work with a competitor in the same city, or in Sorø area. So, for the first time in his career, Eddie had to move out of the city in order to keep working as an optician.
“I had always lived in Sorø so it was a big leap for me to move,” Eddie says, laughing. “I had to relocate to Holbæk because I had to comply with the contract. But when it ended, I immediately joined Nyt Syn back in Sorø, and that’s where I met Jeanette Petersen,” says Eddie. “We got along really well, and we agreed to move to Louis Nielsen together. At this point, Louis Nielsen was already leading the market, and what they were doing was really interesting,” says Eddie. Jeanette became the chief optician, in the Louis Nielsen store in Sorø, while Eddie becomes the optician covering Birkerød and Roskilde. “Louis Nielsen is doing very well at this time, and there are lots of people willing to join the team. That is why we opened many shops in Zealand. I had a clear role to play,” reflects Eddie.
Opens his own store
In 2010, Eddie became an optician partner at Louis Nielsen. He opened the store in Slagelse and teamed up with both chief optician Jeanette Petersen and another ‘Jeanette’, Jeanette Kroman. “We were off to a good start, and for many years the business was successful. We had happy customers and made a good profit. It was a great time. I have always loved helping customers and providing good quality treatments. Taking care of their eyes and making sure they are healthy, says Eddie. Jeanette adds, “Eddie always goes the extra mile for customers. He’s sweet, accommodating and incredibly skilled. And, he has a great calming influence which makes customers feel very comfortable in his hands,” she says.
Jeanette Kroman now owns the Louis Nielsen store in Slagelse where Eddie also still works but is no longer the co-owner. Eddie stepped down a few years ago following his wife’s death. “It was a difficult time for me. I couldn’t commit to running the store and being a manager. That’s why I left the store in Jeanette’s very capable hands,” Eddie explains.
Eddie found his job as an optician helped him get through this difficult time and, it still keeps him going today. “I love working. It’s a joy to be able to help customers and colleagues, and I still learn a lot,” Eddie says. Even though at 66 years old Eddie’s able to retire, retirement doesn’t interest him. “All my colleagues are younger than me – quite a lot younger funnily enough – and that means the education they have had is completely different. Their clinical knowledge in eye health and optics is much greater than mine. I enjoy learning from them,” Eddie says.
But it goes both ways. “We learn a lot from Eddie. His way of being with the customers, and his dignified calm, is rubbing off on all of us,” Jeanette Kroman laughs. “Eddie, of course, deserves to be celebrated. Not many people reach an anniversary like this. I’m happy because he knows we all really appreciate him,” says Jeanette, smiling.
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