SVS Vision grows into optical retail juggernaut

Ken Stann never intended to acquire SVS Vision, yet he became a key figure in its transformation into an optical retail juggernaut.

The Mt. Clemens-based company is the largest retail optical chain in Michigan, but it didn't start out that way when it launched in 1974. Back then it handled insurance work and had built up 52 optical centers by the early 2000s. That's when Stann became a part of the team. His job: help broker a sale.

Completing that task didn't go smoothly. Stann would help put a deal together only to watch it die on the vine not long after. By 2007 he put together a deal to buy SVS Vision with some partners, and Stann became the president & CFO of the firm.

"The more deals I watched die, the more I wanted to put a deal together and buy it myself," Stann says.

With a change in ownership came a change in SVS Vision’s business model. Stann and his partners took the firm from relying on insurance work to a retail model. That meant taking many of its existing locations and switching them to more retail-friendly spaces.

"We have achieved substantial growth by relocating existing stores," Stann says.

That meant re-evaluating the viability of optical center as the leases came up. SVS Vision ended up moving 40 of its 52 optical centers to better serve a retail clientele. It added a few more over time and now has 69 stores in eight states. It’s in the process of opening up two more in Belleville and near the Meijer on Detroit's west side later this month.

That allowed SVS Vision to grow its revenues by nearly 10 percent over the last year. It is currently on track to grow by 12 percent this year. SVS Vision has also hired 50 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 515 people.

"It has been a complete transformation of an entity," Stann says. "I am really proud of it."

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