Robert & Sandra Dobynes

Katie ArnoldSmall Business, Success Stories

Eye Fashion Factory was founded 1984 by Robert and Sandra Dobynes. For the first two years, the young business partners rented a small space owned by a local ophthalmologist and primarily focused on the wholesale manufacturing of eyeglasses for local eye doctors.

In 1985, they purchased a lot in North City at the intersection of Natural Bridge Avenue and Goodfellow Boulevard in St. Louis, MO. The small building on the lot was nearly unsalvageable but the Dobynes had a vision to see a thriving optical business located there. Eye Fashion Factory opened its doors to the public in 1986 and more than 35 years later, the business is still growing.

Eye Fashion Factory provides on-site quality vision care, vision education, and prevention and maintenance services to each customer and the community at large. It accepts most insurance plans as well as Medicaid and Medicare Health plans. Furthering their community commitment, Eye Fashion Factory has partnered with the St. Louis Public schools to offer free eye exams to students in need to promote healthy vision in children.

The Dobynes family also goes way back with Justine PETERSEN, obtaining their first loan from JP in 2011 to work on remodeling their store. The major renovation was rewarded when Eye Fashion Factory was the 2013 recipient of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Business of the Year Award in the 22nd Ward.

In 2020, COVID hit Eye Fashion Factory hard. Overall sales decreased due to initial pandemic restrictions. However, Eye Fashion Factory is the only eyeglass location in St. Louis City that accepts Medicaid, and after a slow few months, they are seeing four to five new patients a day. However, purchasing personal protective gear and other materials to put COVID precautions in place, coupled with a loss of income was putting a strain on the business.

With the assistance of Wells Fargo, Justine PETERSEN was able to offer the Dobynes family business an “Open for Business loan,” an innovative financing product that provided additional working capital and allowed for existing business debt to be refinanced at a competitive rate of 3%. Refinancing their existing debt with the Open for Business loan significantly reduced their loan payments—allowing the Dobynes to keep their business sustainable as they look forward to a post-pandemic future.