JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — John Kaudewitz and Steven Casey plan to bring echoes of the past with plenty of modern twists when they bring eyecare services back to the core of downtown early next year in a large building that once housed Walker Furniture.
“I think part of a healthy flourishing downtown has something like this,” said Casey, who will run the retail side of Aura Optical at 312 E. Main St. in Johnson City.
“It’s a microcosm of the town at large. So having an optometry office, there’s law offices, there’s now a grocery store … everything you can get elsewhere. We just wanted to bring that here because no one else had and we saw an opportunity.”
Kaudewitz and Casey said they hope to open the roughly 3,000 square feet of space that will comprise Aura Optical in spring 2024. That leaves about 20,000 additional square feet of a massive building filled with mezzanines and a huge basement for future development in a building that became available after Tennessee Flag Company moved out a couple of years ago.
“We plan on letting it develop out for folks that want to lease some space, we have plans that we want to do with it too,” Casey said of the building that most recently housed the Tennessee Flag Company. “We have to get this off the shelf first.”
The two have worked together in optometry for more than a decade and started talking about hanging out their own shingle nearly that long ago. A Kingsport native, Kaudewitz left the area to get his doctor of optometry in Pennsylvania and worked for a chain in Louisiana while Casey moved up the management ladder here in the Tri-Cities.
When Kaudewitz moved back and went to work at the same Kingsport retail optometrist the dream hadn’t faded for either guy.
“We worked together for a really long time, and just being on the doctor side opens more doors for us to actually do our own thing,” Kaudewitz said.
Aura Optical will include a highly visible storefront opening into a lobby and gallery.
“When you walk by it’s going to catch your eye,” Casey said.
Clinical offices will be in the back.
“We’re going to have a lab down the road, be doing our own glasses, that kind of stuff,” Casey said.
While the current focus is getting Aura up and running and bringing on several additional people to staff it, Casey and Kaudewitz said the sky is the limit for the remaining space.
Though they paid $599,900 for the building, they said the optometry business should provide sufficient cash flow to fund the building and the initial renovation.
WHAT: New optometry retail store and clinic in a 25,000-square-foot downtown building. Future additional commercial development.
WHERE: 312 E. Main St., Johnson City.
WHO: Aura Optical.
WHEN: Projected retain/clinical opening date April 2024.