Many locals will know Greg Hickey as the friendly optician who has been dispensing spectacles and related products in the Northern Rivers for several decades. It’s a profession he chose straight out of school, when he took an apprenticeship with OPSM, and he says he has never really looked back.
‘I love the people side of it,’ he says. ‘I still have clients from 30 years ago and they depend on me to help them get the best solution for their specific needs.’
For many years Greg has been the owner of two Budget Eyewear stores – one in Lismore and one in Ballina – but recently he has taken the business through a major rebranding exercise, relaunching it as Be Seen Eyewear.
‘It’s still the same location and same staff, but we took the decision to break away and become an independent operator for a variety of reasons,’ says Greg.
‘When John Culver closed his Lennox Head store we took over his client list and we now have John doing some locum work for us in the Ballina store. So we are in the process now of getting the word out there about the changes.’
But it’s not all the couple have on their plate. They are also owners of the Ballina Beaumont Tiles store, though this is Belinda’s domain.
‘A couple of years ago we decided that we’d like to buy another local business, preferably closer to the coast, so we could relocate back here to Lennox Head where I spent so many of my younger years and where all my family live,’ says Greg.
‘We looked at a lot of businesses and Beaumont Tiles came up. We knew the building industry was going to boom, with a lot of land releases and population growth in the area, so we figured tiles would grow too,’ says Greg.
According to Belinda the franchise model is good. ‘Beaumont’s has primarily been a corporate business but in recent years have adopted the franchise model, which allowed us the opportunity to purchase the existing corporate business in Ballina.
‘We benefit greatly from home shows like The Block, House Rules, etc so it’s good to have the Beaumont’s name behind us.’
Belinda came to tiles from a paralegal background and had worked for solicitors in Lismore for many years. She admits that the first couple of years running Beaumont’s was a steep learning curve.
‘I used to come home to Greg and say “This is so foreign to me, I don’t really know what I’m doing!” But I’ve got the hang of it now, thanks to great existing staff who have trained me up and the existence of a good Franchise model that’s been implemented. Now I feel confident going to work, in fact I look forward to it every day.’
The couple now each run a business, with neither treading on the other’s territory. ‘We’ll come home and talk about our day, but that’s as far as it goes. Which is just perfect for both of us,’ says Belinda.