In December 1978, Michael Ungaro opened Parkchester’s Metro Optics. Fresh from optometry school at City Tech – then New York City Community College – and a number of jobs around the Bronx, the Vietnam War veteran coined Metro Optics’ motto: ‘At Metro, we care.’
Three decades later, Metro Optics serves roughly 75,000 Bronxites. Although the business has expanded to Westchester Square and added 40 employees, Ungaro’s staff remains focused on attractive eyeglasses and warm patient relations. Metro Optics is also an active force in the greater Westchester Square community.
“We try hard to provide an eye care experience that goes above and beyond the sale of eyeglasses,” Metro Optics co-founder John Bonizio said.
Ungaro and Bonizio sold Metro Optics’ specialty frame lab this year. The lab, which opened in 1998, serves more than 500 opticians in the Tri-State area.
Metro Optics has retained four-plus optometrists and carries a number of upscale eyewear lines like Bvlgari, Cartier and Chanel. According to Bonizio, staff members like optician and buyer Aurora Susi act as part-time fashion consultants; they cater to patients’ medical needs and personal styles.
“You don’t wear the same clothes every day,” Bonizio said. “But you do wear the same glasses. Your glasses are a part of your image as much as the color of your hair. ”
Ungaro’s original office measured just 500 square feet. Eva Yan, a Hong Kong native and SUNY College of Optometry grad, joined Metro Optics in 1982. Six years later, the two opened a second store on Westchester Square and recruited Bonizio. In 1991, Ungaro and Yan married.
Bonizio now heads the Westchester Square Merchants Association. Metro Optics’ Joe Regina is the group’s secretary. They’re supporters of the square’s percolating campaign for a Business Improvement District.
Metro Optics is also a member of the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce.
“We contribute to the churches, the NAACP, the Knights of Columbus and other community associations,” Bonizio said. “I never say no to fundraisers. As for the BID, it needs to get done.”
Bonizio hopes more Bronxites will take note of Metro Optics’ success and explore careers in optometry.
“It’s a growth industry,” he said. “And a wonderful opportunity, for women in particular.”