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May 30, 2003 - Image 86

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-30

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FAST LANE from page 85

MSU's State News.
When he started in sales at WABX, he
functioned as a virtual advertising agency
for every one of his clients. He'd sell the
spot, work with the disc jockeys to pro-
duce it, edit the product, take it back to
the client and sell them on it.
The idea was to bring in traffic, and
for many of the station's advertisers, it
was easy to gauge the success because it
was the only vehicle they were using.
But his father was anxious for Golden
to come into the family firm. "When my
father first approached me in 1975-76, I
was making too much money at WABX
and didn't want to take a cut in pay. I
just wasn't excited about the prospect.
This wasn't the sexy, glamorous, fashion
retailer D.O.0 of today.
"I saw it as almost a medical business.
And it bored me," said
After he realized that his
father would put the destiny of
the company in the hands of
an outsider, Golden had a
change of heart. "By March of
1977, I was national sales
manager at WABX. I saw my
being at D.O.0 as having to
work with just one account, so
I thought this was going to be
easy — at least in comparison
with WABX, where I had a
new challenge every day.
"I analyzed the whole busi-
ness to see if it brought people
into the stores or not. I had to
drive traffic. And I also had to
deal with the frustrations of
personnel, hiring and manag-
ing people, managing invento-
ry so as not to have too much
on hand and be tapped out for cash. I
got a real education in retail."
There were 27 stores in the chain
then. Today, there are 115 in six states
— and SEE stores in four states — mak-
ing the D.O.0 chain the eighth-largest
optical chain in the country. Golden
became president and CEO of the corn-
pany in 1986.
"I'm excited about what we do. You've
got to be innovative and do new and fun
things. Otherwise, what's it all about? I
set out to change the optical industry, to
change the way fashion eyewear is deliv-
ered," said Golden.
He introduced new venues, such as
the upscale SEE stores, the first store
Making It Exciting
marrying legitimate high-fashion eye-
Golden has used the concept through his wear with sensible pricing.
Other industry innovations included
whole business career, which he describes
D.O.0 City Eyes stores catering to
with two sets of initials, ABX and
urban American consumers and the
D.O.C. He received his B.A. in advertis-
Sport-vision store on Woodward and 14
ing from MSU in 1969 and even put in
Mile roads in Royal Oak.
a stint working as a reporter at the

$110 million today.
Golden was born in 1946, the year his
father, Dr. Donald Golden, opened his
first optical store on the 19th floor of the
First National Building in downtown
Detroit. Originally known as Detroit
Optometric Centers, the business
became known as D.O.0 in the late
Richard Golden and his two brothers
grew up in the Sherwood Forest subdivi-
sion of northwest Detroit. He graduated
from Mumford High School, where he
majored in partygoing. "I was very much
an unstudent," he recalls.
His parents sent him for 10th grade to
a prep school in Cheshire, Conn., where
"they forced you to study. There were no
girls there, so you didn't have to worry
about your social skills. I really learned
how to study that year."
Golden convinced his parents to let
him complete the 11th and 12th grades
at Mumford. After graduation, he
enrolled at Macomb Community
College where he admits he was a C and
B student, and then went to Michigan
State University with the expectation
that he would follow in his father's foot-
steps as an optometrist.
But after a year-and-a-half of dealing
with science and math, Golden said, "I
couldn't do this for another 2 1 /2 years.
Here's the test tube. What am I going to
build? I had no interest in it. I realised
it's not for me."
He told his mother, Norma Mary
Blumberg Golden, of his dilemma. 'As a
kid," said Golden, "I used to sell greeting
cards, stationery and note cards to our
neighbors. I was always selling. I was
always a salesman. I was very motivated
and hungry to make money. I used to
sell as if my family didn't have any
money. Then again, my father didn't just
hand me money either."
Golden's mother recognized his apti-
tude for sales. She suggested he study
advertising at MSU. And he did.
"That's when everything changed for
me," said Golden. "Where before I had
no interest, now I could relate. What I
learned at MSU was practical knowl-
edge. One concept was drilled into my
head: USP, unique selling proposition.
No matter what kind of business it was,
and I learned that most businesses are
very much alike, it applied," said



"It is just not good
enough to be an optical
store," Golden said. "You
have to have more fashion
at D.O.0 than anybody
else. Everything you do has
to have urgency. If I'm
dancing on TV, riding a
motorcycle, or riding a
horse, I'm breaking
through. I'm cutting
through the clutter," said
But Golden may have
inherited that talent. "My
father was an innovator. He
broke the mold. He started
advertising back in the
1940s when people used to
say, 'What kind of a doctor

'1 "01604110 $,'"

Golden with tools of his trade.

advertises?' He promoted contact lenses
20 years before they came in. If my lega-
cy is half as good as that of my father, I'll
be satisfied," said Golden.


Maybe it is time for Golden to start
kvelling. Marge Axelrad, who was senior
vice president and editorial director of
the New York-based Jobson Optical
Group, covers the industry for the trade
publications Vision Monday and 20/20.
"He is really a merchant's merchant," she
said of Golden, adding, "He personifies
fashion and the fast pace of ideas that are
driving customers into D.O.0 stores."
She singled out Golden's concept for
D.O.0 City Eyes stores, praising him for
identifying the concept of the culture of
"hip-hop urban lifestyles that are influ-
enced through the media and which are
attracting young people all over the
Golden's younger brother, Randy, is

executive vice president of the firm in
charge of purchasing and manufacturing.
Older brother Michael, who turns 60
this year, is retired.
Golden's son, Seth, the third genera-
tion to be in the family business, is
involved in store operations. Richard
describes Seth as being "another pair of
eyes and ears for me," using one of the
many vision metaphors with which he
peppers his conversation.
Daughter Jessica, a Northwestern
University graduate, is pursuing an act-
ing career in California. The family
patriarch, Dr. Donald Golden, spends
his winters at his Bal Harbour, Fla.,
home and still drives high-performance
sports cars.
And behind the scenes is Richard
Golden's wife, Shelley; whom he pro-
posed to while they were en route to
Motown superstar Diana Ross' house-
warming on Buena Vista Avenue in
Detroit many years ago. "I asked Shelley
to look in the glove box of the car for an
envelope with the directions — this was
long before cell phones — and instead
she found a box with an engagement
ring in it," said Golden.
"Shelley is his secret weapon," said for-
mer Detroit News columnist Suzy
Farbman of Franklin.
Her husband, Burt, has known
Golden since they attended Sunday
school together. "He loves his business,"
Burt Farbman said, "and he's very loyal
to it. But even with all his fame and for-
tune, he is still always loyal to his
friends." E

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