Behind the scenes at R. Woodfall’s newest location

Dispensing optician John Fried, a practice owner for 47 years, showed OT  around his architecturally designed Crystal Palace practice

Dispensing optician John Fried has been a partner at R. Woodfall Opticians since 1975 – a time when standard NHS frames were the norm and electronic practice equipment wasn’t even a dot on the horizon.

Nearly five decades on, and now with six practices across South East London, Kent and Surrey, Fried isn’t slowing down – in fact, his latest practice, in Crystal Palace, only opened for business this year.

Repurposing an old Costa Coffee in the months after the pandemic, Fried enlisted the help of a local architect – the same architect who had helped him out in East Dulwich 11 years previously – and a project manager, in the creation of what he admits his wife has labelled his “vanity project.”

“I had been looking in Crystal Palace for three years, before the pandemic,” Fried explained.

After a period of negotiation, he took over the ex-coffeeshop in January 2022, and “spent a year working on it, getting it changed to an optical practice.”

On a sunny morning in June, Fried welcomed OT with treats from a local bakery, before taking us behind the scenes at his newest venture – which at the time had only been open for five months.

The transformation involved “lots of drawings, lots of meetings, lots of money,” Fried said, but he believes it has “come out looking a little bit different,” with brands including Silhouette, RayBan and Serengeti displayed throughout the airy, blonde-wood space.

“This is a very quirky area,” Fried said, adding: “People shop locally, and do things locally.”

He describes R Woodfall’s newest home, right on the buzzing Crystal Palace Triangle, as “quaint” and “chichi.”

Fried also has frames for children and teenagers displayed separately, and has given a large amount of thought to what other services these patients might need – including myopia management, through which Stellest lenses are offered.

At the moment, while it finds its feet, the practice is “busy one week and quiet the next” - which Fried knew would be the case. In a year or 18 months, he explained, the flurries of business followed by quieter periods are likely to have evened out.

For the moment, he is happy to let the new R Woodfall location settle in, welcoming in new patients from both the local area and beyond.

“Five months in, I’m very pleased,” he said.