Parallel paths finally cross in south Charlotte

Tracy MacIntyre Raykovicz and Charlene Henderson are two of a kind.

Charlene Henderson, left, and Tracy MacIntyre Raykovicz, right, opened Blink Eye Care and Eye Wear in the Cedar Walk development in 2009 and recently broke ground on a new building in the same development that will nearly double their space.

Both hailing from Canada, it was quite the coincidence to find each other in Charlotte – both optometrists, the two found their lives were so aligned it only made sense to open a business together right in their own community.

The two own Blink Eye Care and Eye Wear in the Cedar Walk development at the corner of Ardrey Kell and Marvin roads. They opened the business just three years ago in late 2009, meeting each other just six months before.

Raykovicz, originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, graduated from Dalhousie University before attending The New England College of Optometry in Boston, Mass., where she earned her doctor of optometry degree in 1998. She then worked at the Wilmer Eye Institute of John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. She and her husband, who also is an optometrist, moved to Charlotte in 2002.

Henderson’s story is much the same. She grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, before attending college at Memorial University. She then attended the Illinois College of Optometry where she earned her doctor of optometry degree in 1996. After practicing several years in Waterville, Maine, she and her husband, who also is an optometrist, moved to Charlotte in 2000.

Both families now call south Charlotte home, living just several blocks apart from one another, and though their paths took quite some time to cross, both ladies are happy they did.

“Everyone would say to me, ‘You’re from Canada? Oh, you must know Dr. Henderson.’ But we didn’t know each other. Now, it’s like we had parallel lives. Once we met, we just clicked and felt like we were meant to be friends. We both wanted to open a practice and we decided we should do it together,” Raykovicz said.

So they took the plunge, and though they opened their business right in the middle of a recession, the two said there was a need in the community and their business seemed to take off pretty quick. They first hired a consulting group to get the ball rolling as neither had experience running a business. Then they worked to find the right staff – something they say is one of the key aspects in a successful business.

“Our philosophy here is about having our patients become family,” Henderson said. “When we picked our staff, we really wanted people who cared about people.”

The ladies have four other full-time employees, as well as one part-time employee. And with a new building that broke ground just last week, the ladies are expanding – in employees, space and services. Their new space, which will be almost double in size at around 3,700 square feet, will feature a new sports vision clinic. The ladies are still working to name the program, which will focus on testing certain visual skills such as depth perception, peripheral awareness, balance and hand-eye coordination. The program’s mission, with the help of an athletic trainer, is to help enhance an athlete’s performance in a natural way, the two said.

The ladies have joined up with neighboring pediatric dentist and orthodontist Suzanne Bird to build a 9,000-square-foot space located in the Cedar Walk development, which will house all of the new offices scheduled to open this fall.

But for Raykovicz and Henderson, they’re just working to keep up with their 3,500 active patients all while being busy moms – both have two children who attend the same school in nearby Union County.

For other women or moms looking to open their own business, the ladies said the most important thing besides being willing to take the leap of faith is to have a great support system and maybe even a partner.

“We have so much in common, but Tracy is so good with the financial side and I’m better with the technology side,” Henderson said. “We are able to compromise and figure out what’s best for us. We kind of just balance each other out.”

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