At some point during the spring of 2007, I was volunteering at YMCA d’Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. To help with their fundraising, I decided to sell glasses and give them the profits. This is how Bonhomme à lunettes was born. Then, over the next weeks and months, other organizations joined the initiative and it slowly became my livelihood as I was making just enough to resign from my two part-time jobs.
Then, thanks to word of mouth and the dynamism of community organizers, more and more people came to meet me. Mostly people who felt they couldn't afford glasses, or had to make heartbreaking budget choices to be able to purchase them. I had already met several of these clients when I worked for big banners. I saw them stiffen up when they had to buy glasses on credit, not sure how they would make it through the rest of the month. I've also seen some of them shake their heads when offered a "simple installment payment plan." I have even seen some leave empty-handed because the cheapest glasses were simply not accessible to them. It was these experiences that motivated me to create a company with a simple mission: make glasses accessible to everyone. A company with a social bend. I started without a business plan, but with the intuition that by putting accessibility at the heart of my business, I would make a lot of people happy. As I have been saying for a decade and a half now: seeing clearly is not a luxury.
15 years later
Le Bonhomme à lunettes has 32 employees totaling at least 375 years of experience, more than 60 points of service throughout southern Québec, more than 100,000 glasses sold and $1 million donated to approximately 150 community partners. But also, a prize from l'Association de la santé publique du Québec, a partnership with the Cree Board of Health and Social Service of James Bay, a recommendation from Protégez-Vous magazine as well as a mention from the Québec National Assembly.
I would like to thank our customers for believing in us, my colleagues for believing in a weird business model as well as all community stakeholders for believing in the idea of an optician who is also a community resource, acting as a social safety net. It is thanks to you that this strange idea has become such a success that now far exceeds anything I could have imagined when I bought my first suitcases and my first tools so long ago.
I am sometimes asked what is our plan for the future. Our main objective is simple: to keep starting prices at the same level as 15 years ago while maintaining high quality standards for products and service. Not always easy when everything else increases almost every month, but that's what I wish for our 20th anniversary. Until then, we will continue to enthusiastically collaborate with community organizations, which are increasingly in demand as the wealth gap also seems to increase with each passing month. As for you, dear customers, know that we will continue to align your visual needs with your financial means. It's part of our DNA, and we have no intention of changing that.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much,
Philippe Rochette and the rest of the Bonhomme à lunettes crew