MEET THE MERCHANT
Dr. Arbi Melikian, Market Optometrix, stall #708
The Original Farmers Market has always offered community service based businesses as part of the retail experience. Customers can come here for wonderful grocery and restaurant experiences and they can also get shoe repairs and shines, a haircut, do some banking, and get their eyes examined. The eye exams happen at Market Optometrix, where customers can find superb eye care and the latest in eye fashion.
Owned and operated by the well respected Dr. Arbi Melikian, Market Optometrix is located conveniently near Gate 4 and The Dog Bakery. Recently we sat and talked with Dr. Melikian. Born in Iran of Armenian parents, Dr. Melikian studied at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago in 2003 before moving back to the Los Angeles, where he grew up after emigrating from Germany.
About the store:
I had been coming to The Farmers Market for a long time, it’s one of my favorite spots to visit. I knew the previous owner, Dr. Tamar Kaloustain and she decided she wanted more time to spend with her family. She still wanted to practice but didn’t want to own the business. So I thought it would be perfect for me to buy the store and work here myself. So that’s what we did. She still sees patients, but has a much lighter schedule.
I’ve been in practice since 2003. It is a little unusual to see a store like ours in a place like The Market…but it’s about convenience. People want to be somewhere where they can do a little shopping and then get their eye exams. It just works, it’s why you see eye centers in WalMart and Target. Our store is different from because we go out of our way to treat patients the way they want to be treated; we treat them as if they were family members. We give the best eye exam, the best lenses and we pair them with high quality frames. We have both high end and lower end frames; we have elderly patients and we see youngsters. The youngest I’ve seen is about six years old, the oldest is 99 and he’s healthier than I am.
One of the biggest trends is that more people need glasses than ever before. That’s because our population is aging, we’re living longer, therefore, more eye care is needed.
About Dr. Melikian:
I’m Armenian. I came to the US in 1987 but prior to that, my family and I were in Germany for a while. We migrated there and then migrated to the US. When we got here, I was 13 or 14, it was tough. It’s tough changing cultures, countries and schools. My supportive family structure helped me manage my way through it.
I wasn’t born in Armenia, I was born in Iran, across the border. My parents were also born in Iran, but we were still identified as Armenians. After the Iranian Revolution, when the Shah was overthrown, we fled to Germany. It was a mess. My parents, sister and I fled because they knew Iran wasn’t a good place for us. The Iran-Iraq war heated up and if we’d stayed, I’d be forced to join the Army. It was a war my parents didn’t believe in. If you were an 11 or 12 year old boy, they’d sign you up, you couldn’t leave. So we left before I was 11.
My parents wanted to stay in Germany, but after two years, they were unable to find work. Some of our relatives had already come to Los Angeles and so we followed them and settled in Glendale. My father had been a lawyer in Iran, but his English was limited, so he became a postman. My mother worked in a fabric store. There is a large Armenian community in Glendale and when you flee to another country, it’s always a little easier to live where others from your country already live.
I went to college in Chicago, the Illinois College of Optometry and loved it except for the winters. We had exams twice a week and I had to be there at 8 am. I had to get up at 5:30 or 6 to dig my car out of the snow before school. But I love Chicago; I had a lot of friends and loved the food. The Market reminds me a lot of Chicago, the atmosphere. It’s very Midwestern. But I wanted to get back to LA because my family was here.
What I love about my work is that with eye care medicine, your patients go home happy. In other medical fields, for example in the field of chronic illness, you can help a patient manage an illness, but there’s not the same level of happiness about that. And the results of my work are much more immediate. When a patient complains that they’re not seeing well, we can solve that problem quickly as an eye care provider. We can prescribe eye glasses, contact lenses, Lasik surgery, we can take care of it right away. I think we eye doctors get to enjoy our time more with our patients.
I love working for myself. It’s very satisfying, achieving different levels of growth. That’s hard to do when you work for someone else. You get the direct fruit of your labor, you see satisfied patients, you see your practice growing. I thoroughly enjoy the business aspect of my work, too. I need to be working on more than one thing at a time, otherwise I get bored. I have to keep challenging myself so that doesn’t happen, as an eye doctor, as a businessman and as, hopefully, a community leader.
What we put into the community is what we get out of the community. I look for volunteer opportunities, like doing eye screenings in schools. When I was in my first practice, in Arizona, we were near the Mexican border and I went on many missions into Mexico. I enjoyed it very much. I’m always glad to give back in any way I can.
His Favorite Pastime:
My biggest joy is spending time with my daughter. I don’t have her full time any more since my divorce, so I cherish all our time together. We go to the amusement parks, Disneyland. She goes snowboarding and skiing with me. I snowboard every chance I get, as often as I can get up to Mammoth. It’s great. I do have a snowboard injury to my thumb from last March that’s still healing, but that doesn’t stop me.
Click here for an archived list of past Meet the Merchant profiles.