Main Street Business


By Published On: January 2nd, 2024

For this month’s health issue, Main Street has its eyes on vision care and those “O” professionals who provide a wide range of eye-care services. In our region there is a choice between medical doctors, independent optometrists, corporate-owned retailers staffed by optometrists, and independent and retail chain opticians.  

Which kind of O do you need?

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors, who specialize in identifying and treating eye-related problems from prescribing corrective lenses to performing eye surgery. Like any other medical doctor, they train for four years of medical school after college, three to four years of hospital residency, and a fellowship if they choose to further specialize. Additional specialties include retina, neuro-ophthalmology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, cornea, glaucoma, and pediatric ophthalmology. If no fellowship is performed, they are a ‘general ophthalmologist.’ A general ophthalmologist is an MD who may treat disease, and perform cataract surgery as well as perform regular eye exams.  

Optometrists are OD’s. They are not medical doctors, but they are properly referred to as eye doctors as they complete a doctorate degree in optometry, including four years postgraduate training at one of twenty-four optometry schools in the US and a one-year residency if they choose to specialize. Additional specialties include vision therapy, sports vision, ocular disease, low vision, contact lens (for specific corneal diseases), and pediatric optometry. Like general ophthalmologists, optometrists perform eye exams that diagnose and treat and co-manage a wide range of eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, they also determine your refractive error, fit contact lenses, and sell glasses. Optometrists can be found working in private practice or in a corporate setting (such as Target Optical, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, and Walmart, to name a few). 

Opticians fill prescriptions for glasses. Unlike ophthalmologists and optometrists, they do not do eye exams or treat vision problems. Opticians are licensed with different requirements in every state. In Connecticut, an optician must obtain an associate degree in ophthalmic dispensing or complete four years and 8,000 hours of apprenticeship training under the supervision of a licensed optician. Opticians, like optometrists, can be independent or employed by a corporate-owned vision center.

A visit with an optometrist

Dr. Reiners has been at Barrington Eye Care since March of 2022, when he took over from Dr. David Kay, who had owned the practice for over 40 years. Dr. Reiners’ journey first started in the Army Infantry. Upon completion of his active-duty service, Dr. Reiners finished his undergraduate education utilizing the GI bill and earned a scholarship with ROTC. He then attended optometry school at the New England College of Optometry in Boston from 2005-2009. 

His military background has provided him with organizational, logistics, and management skills. As a nighttime battle captain in Kuwait, his mission was to assign, monitor, and track vehicle convoys loaded with equipment into Iraq and back to Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn. Dr. Reiners reported that he would have 900-1,200 trucks on the road and four boats transporting equipment every night. His convoys would routinely encounter small arms fire, improvised explosive devices, and ambushes. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. After his deployment, he transferred to the Connecticut Air National Guard and currently is a lieutenant colonel. He attends military drills one weekend a month and serves as the chief of optometry for the 103rd Medical Group. Next year he’ll reach 30 years of military service. He enjoys serving his country and “will hang it up when I’m not having fun anymore.” 

Dr. Reiners explained why he became an optometrist, “I was always fascinated by how the body works, and I had wanted to pursue a job involving the medical field. Two of my best friends in high school, who went to college while I was in the military, chose careers in medicine, and that influenced my choice. One became a cardiologist, while the other chose optometry. After visiting with both of them and doing research, I decided on optometry. The most rewarding part of being an optometrist is that I enjoy the ability to make a difference in people’s lives every day by helping them achieve better vision or identifying and managing their eye disease.”

He made the decision to take over Dr. Kay’s office to be closer to the Berkshires where his wife, Gina Troiano Reiners, also an optometrist, has lived her whole life. “The Berkshires are a wonderful place to raise a family. Such a tight-knit community and everyone kind of knows everyone or is related to someone you know.” Dr. Reiners has three children and enjoys watching and coaching them in sports. 

Dr. Reiners recommends having annual eye exams, which he termed “a physical for your eyeballs.” He mentioned that “we go to the dentist every six months, but some people only have an eye exam every few years.” He goes on to say, “which would you rather lose, an eye or a tooth?” 

Barrington Eye Care has over 650+ frames to choose from and can make glasses on-site. Additionally, they have the newest retinal camera that takes an extra wide-view photo of the retina for which you may not have to have your eyes dilated. They also have an ultrasound to help diagnose, manage, and treat any disease behind the eye’s surface. The ultrasound can evaluate all of the layers of the retina down to 1/1,000th of a millimeter. 

The biggest challenge Dr. Reiners has encountered as an optometrist is the lack of awareness with respect to the importance of vision exams. Some medical insurance covers an annual eye exam while others cover an exam every two years. If you have Medicare, routine eye exams may be partially covered or not covered at all. Dr. Reiners observed that the cost of medical and optical equipment has increased dramatically; however, the reimbursement for required procedures to rule out ocular disease has decreased. In some cases, previously covered services are now applied to a deductible and the cost passed on to the patient. Dr. Reiners feels that vision services and annual eye exams should be covered for all ages, no matter which insurance you have. 

A visit with an optician

Carl Marshall has over 50 years of experience in the optical industry. He founded Sharon Optical in 1983. His son Dan now owns and runs this independent optician shop near Sharon Hospital. Dan has worked alongside his father since 2008, and he continues to provide the community with the same service and professionalism that his father has provided for over 40 years. 

Carl likened being an optician to being a pharmacist, “We fill prescriptions for glasses.” They do not, however, do eye exams or treat vision problems. Sharon Optical offers a huge range of frames from practical to trendy with prices from $70 to as much as $500, as well as contact lenses. Materials include titanium, which is light and durable, stainless steel, a nickel alloy, acetate, and injected molded plastic. The store carries seven or eight different lines of frames and changes them at least twice a year. Lines include Anglo American Optical which has been making tortoise shell frames in the UK since 1882, and the ever-popular Ray-Ban sunglasses – with and without corrective lenses. The lenses themselves are manufactured elsewhere and shipped to the shop to be cut down to the size and shape for the frame selected.  

Customers in the Sharon shop tend to be referred by local ophthalmologists with prescription in hand, not by optometrists, who do eye exams, supply glasses and contacts, and often accept vision insurance. 

Personal service is the key to the longevity of Sharon Optical. “We do the best we can for everybody,” shared Carl. They attribute their success to their exceptional customer service, which Sharon Optical has provided for over 40 years, mixed with Carl and Dan’s easy-going personalities – they feel that this combinations accounts for their large customer base in Sharon and the surrounding towns. Carl further shared that refraction prescriptions, for example, are very subjective and can vary depending on the prescriber. “If there’s a problem with the glasses, we’ll send them back until it works.” 

Dr. Reiners and Marshall both agreed that the biggest difference between the glasses they sell and the glasses people buy on the Internet is quality, which is most visible with a wider channel in   progressive lenses. •

To learn more about Barrington Eye Care, call (413) 528-2880. Visit them in person at 789 Main St STE 3, Great Barrington, MA, or online at

To learn more about Sharon Optical, call them at (860) 364-0878. Visit them in person at 26 Hospital Hill Rd, Sharon, CT, or online at