For 20 years, Michael Orloff hasn’t just helped Bronx residents see better at his Pelham Parkway Vision Center on Lydig Avenue. He’s also become an integral part of the community.
But with a desire to serve more people, Orloff relocated to a bigger space on April 29, from 731-735 Lydig Ave.
“We’ve been dreaming about expansion,” he stressed. “We needed it. I’m very excited.”
Orloff’s success story did not happen overnight. He immigrated to America from Russia in 1992, not knowing anything about running a business or optometry. Today, he owns 15 optician stores throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Long Island.
At age 32, he arrived in Pelham Parkway and made his first home on Lydig Ave. In Russia his wife Lina was a teacher and Orloff managed a grocery store.
Adjusting to life in New York was not easy — especially for his wife, Lina, who had no family here.
“My wife told me give me tickets back for me and my son and I’m going to see you back in Moscow,” he recalled.
But, the couple slowly adjusted to the fast pace of the Boogie Down. Orloff landed a job delivering the Daily News, but soon they made a choice that jump started their careers.
The Orloffs had a friend whose daughter was studying to become an optician and the duo thought that was an interesting field. So, they took leap of faith and went to school.
“I never knew what an optician was,” Orloff explained. “I never wore glasses.”
In 1995, they opened their first store, Bainbridge Optical in Norwood, with Lina as the operator. Meanwhile, Orloff landed a job as an optician at Sam’s Club in Elmsford.
With adjusting to life, learning English and owning a store they had a lot on their plate.
“It took us about three or four years to start understanding the business,” he explained.
In 2001 they opened their second store, Pelham Parkway Vision Center. This one was his “baby,” as it was up the street from their first home in the Bronx.
But business was not easy that year.
“After 9/11, my store was empty for about a year,” he recalled. “Thank God my wife’s store was making some money.”
Things eventually improved and the couple opened 13 more stores.
According to Orloff, he owes a lot of his success to his former manager at Sam’s Club, Joe Girard. Girard taught him the ins-and-outs of the business and the two are still friends.
Today, as the city plans to fully reopen completely during the next few months, Orloff explained that COVID-19 was the toughest challenge he has faced.
He saw numerous stores shutter, lost clients and he and his wife had the coronavirus.
“I know a lot of people I’m not going to see anymore,” he said.
Looking back, Orloff told the Bronx Times he is proud of what he and his wife have accomplished. While he came here nearly three decades ago as a small fish in a big pond, today the roles have changed.
“I go to work every day,” he stated. “I don’t see myself as any different. I like what I do, no regrets.”