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Shared values bring Restore Eye Care and MindBodyArt together

by on June 07, 2018 10:34 AM

PORT MATILDA — What could an optometrist’s office and a dance studio possibly have in common? Quite a lot, actually.

Restore Eye Care and Eye Gym, co-owned by Dr. Tracy Sepich and Dr. Christine Zlupko, and MindBodyArt Dance Studio, owned by Michele Brandt, are both local, female-owned businesses. But beyond that obvious connection, the two businesses share very similar philosophies about serving local families, focusing on long-term health and wellness and filling otherwise unmet needs of the community.

It was these commonalities that led Brandt and Sepich, who met each other through the State College Downtown Rotary Club, to develop the new Gray’s Centre office building together. The building, located at 650 Gray’s Woods Blvd/, is now occupied by both of their businesses, as well as a third tenant, K2 Roots Cold Pressed Juice, another female-owned business.

“We’re not just out to get more people in the door,” Sepich said of Restore Eye Care and Eye Gym. “We could just do basic exams and limit it to that, but we’re driven, and we feel that it’s our mission to help people who otherwise aren’t being served.”

Brandt echoed much of Sepich’s sentiments when talking about the mission of MindBodyArt.

“We’re not looking to just enroll as many kids as we can; it’s not a cash cow kind of thing,” she said. “We really try to figure out the pain points as a parent: What are things that get in my way, and what are things we can do as a community to solve those things?”

To fulfill the unmet eye care needs of the community, Sepich and Zlupko have developed specialties in the areas of vision impairment rehabilitation, vision therapy and behavioral optometry. Sepich holds a master's degree in low-vision rehabilitation and is board-certified in general optometry. Zlupko recently achieved a fellowship from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, and is the only optometrist in Centre County to carry such a designation.

Because of their specialties, Zlupko said, “We have a lot of colleagues here that will refer patients to us specifically to for specialty care and to do vision therapy with them, and then they return to (the referring eye doctor) for their regular care.”

This collaborative approach is good for the community at large, Sepich said. “We fill niches that others aren’t, but we have great eye care in State College. There are a lot of doctors doing a really nice, professional job here, and by providing quality care, everybody wins. If we’re all really good independently, it’s going to raise everyone up.”

As far as the unmet needs Brandt is striving to meet with MindBodyArt, she said, "There are not a lot of kids' activities that start after 5 p.m. in this community, and yet 80 percent of our population works from 8 a.m. until around 6 p.m. So, how many local kids cannot enjoy the arts, or personal fitness, or what have you?”

With that in mind, and with an added goal of helping parents achieve some balance, Brandt opened MindBodyArt in the basement of Good Shepherd Catholic Church one year ago. The studio offers dance classes, competitive dance teams, tumbling and an extensive after-school enrichment program. Brandt also is adding adult fitness and yoga classes in June.

“So, parents can come here after work, get yoga in while the kids are still here, and then they all get to go home and eat dinner together,” Brandt said.

Brandt had been working on opening a new building ever since she first made the decision to leave her job in the corporate eyewear industry — another unexpected connection to her new partner in the building — in order to open MindBodyArt, she said. The entire second floor of the building is occupied by the dance studio and it is a state-of-the-art space. There are five spacious studios, featuring sprung dance floors to protect knees and ankles from the impact of repeated dance movements. Waiting areas feature numerous television monitors where parents can observe what is happening inside the studios while seated on high-tech black leather chairs that include built-in USB ports and outlets.

On the first floor, Restore Eye Care and Gym enjoys a much larger space than in its former location at Oakwood Centre, which is one of the reasons Sepich said she was interested in partnering with Brandt in the construction and purchase of this new building. In addition to allowing for more exam rooms, the larger area gives Restore's full-time vision therapist much more space and privacy in which to work with patients, including children with learning-related or developmental issues and adults who have suffered strokes or concussions. In addition, the location near Interstate 99's Gray’s Woods exit was important because many Restore Eye Care clients must travel from out of town, Sepich said.

Ultimately, Sepich said, the partnership with Brandt and the inclusion of K2 Roots as a tenant makes a lot of sense.

“All the businesses here are focused on community. We want to give back to our community, and we also want the local community to feel that we offer something that is positive for their families,” Sepich said.

“Everyone who works in this building is amazing,” Brandt said. "Health, wellness, balance, all under one roof — we hope to keep that feel.”



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