Year after year, Robertson Optical Laboratories demonstrates its ability to meet its ongoing goal of surpassing excellence.
In 2016, Robertson ranked 5th in Vision Monday’s top wholesale independent optical labs by RX sales and RX jobs per day. For 59 years, Robertson has thrived on providing personalized customer care to eye care professionals, while exceeding their expectations with quality, cutting-edge optical lens products.
Robertson offers customers groundbreaking free-form and AR lens portfolios, unparalleled in-lab surfacing technology, innovative privately-labeled products and state-of-the-art production facilities. All contributing to the best possible vision for its customers’ patients.
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59 Years and counting…
Founded in 1958 as a family owned business, Robertson Optical labs have experienced phenomenal growth by offering revolutionary lens technology while not losing touch of the human side of customer care.
“When Jack Robertson started in the optical trade in the 1920s, little did he know the number of lives he would impact in the industry for future generations,” says Calvin Robertson, Jr., secretary of Robertson Optical of Atlanta (Loganville) and president of Robertson Optical of Columbia and Greenville, SC.
By the 1950s, Jack had become quite an entrepreneur in the industry, and on April 14, 1958, he founded and opened the first office of Robertson Optical Laboratories, Inc. in downtown Atlanta. Robertson Optical’s 11 employees serviced 22 prescriptions that first day and 149 the first week. 50 years later, Robertson Optical celebrates unprecedented success, having more than 120 employees, fills more than 7,000 prescriptions a week, and serves customers throughout the southeastern and central states.
SEE HISTORY BELOW…
Everyday we will remember that the visual care of the community is in our hands. We will never relax our vigilance for we know that the coming generation is dependent upon our product and service for eyecare. Because we have dedicated our service and placed our trust in God, we will be a never failing source of supply. And because we have fully accepted these responsibilities; we will go home at night feeling that we have earned a place among those who serve mankind.
– Jack Robertson (1958)
1920s – Jack Robertson was employed by J. H. Spratling, OD of Macon, GA, and later by Southeastern Optical Company in Atlanta, GA, where he worked in surface and finishing, then customer service for several years. It is believed that Jack ground the first slab-off lens in Atlanta.
1946 – Dean Cummins and Jack Robertson opened a wholesale lab in Atlanta called Cummins-Robertson Optical Laboratory, Inc. by purchasing a small lab in the Healy Building in downtown Atlanta. Over the next 12 years, additional Cummins-Robertson locations opened.
1958 – Jack Robertson resigned from Cummins-Robertson and purchased the Atlanta office of Wren Optical to open the first location of Robertson Optical Laboratories, Inc. (ROL). He started the company with his son Calvin, Ralph Barr and some others from Cummins-Robertson When opened, Jack said, “If we can receive 50 prescriptions a day, I’ll be happy.” This was achieved within the first six months.
1959 – Richard Robertson joined his father and brother with ROL Atlanta. Prior to that, he worked as an optometrist in Charlotte, NC with his in-laws, Jimmy Palmer, OD and Belle Palmer, OD.
1960 – Forrest Bradford was managing Cummins – Robertson in Greenville, SC. He wanted to join Jack and open a ROL location. Cummins sold the Greenville office to Forrest and the Robertsons, and ROL Greenville opened.
1963 – Gordon Scott, who was managing American Optical Company in Columbia, SC, joined the Robertsons in opening ROL Columbia. Many of Gordon’s former employees joined him.
1963 – Forrest Bradford of ROL Greenville passed away.
1963 – The Robertsons were referred to Cliff Wiggins, who was working for a retail-wholesale dispensary in Gastonia, NC. After a meeting with him, he became the manager and co-owner of ROL Greenville
1965 – Jack Robertson passed away on August 15.
1968 – Due to its success, ROL Columbia needed additional space, moved to newer building in Columbia, and later expanded that building to include a lab for plastics.
1968 – Bill Renfrow and the Robertsons bought Martin Optical Company of Charlotte to open ROL Charlotte.
1969 – Tom Bentley had been serving as a manager of ROL Atlanta since 1963. After six years with Atlanta, he decided that he wanted to open a ROL location, so the Robertsons and Tom opened ROL Albany.
1969 – ROL Charlotte moved into a larger building.
1970 – ROL opened a new location in Orlando, FL, which was co-owned and managed by Billy Parker. ROL Orlando was successful in its first year and continued to be profitable for many years, requiring a larger facility to be built in the Orlando suburbs.
1973 – Due to continued growth, ROL Atlanta built a new facility in Tucker, GA, a suburb of Atlanta.
1973 – Bill Renfrow needed more space for ROL Charlotte, so a new building was erected to house the growth.
1973 – Bill Renfrow conceived the idea of starting a company which made and molded “jumbo lens trays” and “frame drawer dividers”. The company was called Tri-R Company (for Robertson, Robertson, and Renfrow).With the popularity of larger lenses and frames, the jumbo lens trays and Frame-o-Flex dividers were sold throughout the US and Canada. Because the Tri-R trays and dividers were in such high demand for stocking oversized lens and frames, this venture proved to be very successful.
1975 – ROL Greenville moved into a new building.
1976 – A ROL team, led by Richard Robertson, developed the first one-step fining pad for grinding plastic lenses. The pad was later sold to Titmus, and then sold it throughout the U.S. Eventually, Carl Zeiss Vision sold it throughout Europe.
1979 – Glenn Hollingsworth became general manager of ROL Atlanta.
1982 – ROL opened Reid Optical in Stone Mountain, GA with Steve and Pattie Reid.
1983 – ROL Charlotte’s building had proved to be too small for growth. Thus, a new lab and office was opened at the Arnold Palmer Commercial Center in Charlotte.
1988 – Cliff Wiggins of ROL Greenville retired.
1988 – Bill Renfrow retired, and ROL sold its Charlotte and Reid Optical locations.
1992 – Chip Robertson and Glenn Hollingsworth became vice presidents and partial owners of ROL Greenville, with Chip managing Greenville, and Glenn serving as general manager of ROL Atlanta.
1993 – Kelly Bowling became VP of ROL Atlanta.
1994 – Gordon “Scotty’ Scott, Jr. and Jack Howard became VPs and partial owners of ROL Columbia.
1998 – Due to substantial increase in business, ROL Atlanta built a larger facility in Loganville, GA where they are today. Soon after, the Loganville location started producing AR coatings in-house.
2000 – Larry Bentley became a VP and partial owner of ROL Albany.
2006 – Billy Parker, who had managed ROL Orlando, passed away.
2005 – ROL Atlanta opened a full-service anti-reflective (AR) coating lab in their Loganville facility. The Atlanta location had produced in-house AR coatings since 1999, but the new facility gave ROL the ability to produce high quality AR coatings.
2006 – Larry Bentley, VP of ROL Albany retired, with Wahn Vinavong succeeding him as vice-president and co-owner. Wahn had been with ROL for 29 years, working as a lab tech and in customer service. Tom Bentley also continued as vice president.
2007 – By 2005, ROL Columbia had recognized the need to expand, so in February 2007, erected and moved into a new, 12,500 square-ft. building. This gave Columbia the ability to produce the same high quality AR coatings being produced at ROL Atlanta. It was the first optical lab in SC to offer full-service, in-house AR coating. ROL Columbia and Atlanta were the only two independent labs in the Southeast to produce Teflon® Clearcoat lenses in-house.
2008 – Gordon Scott, co-founder of ROL Columbia passed away and is honored by all.
2009 – Robertson Optical of Atlanta installs in-house digital surfacing equipment to produce many brands of free-form lens products.
2010 – Robertson continues to expand in-house production of digital, free-form lenses by Zeiss, Shamir and Seiko, and begins its own privately-labeled family of free-form lenses called Cozē.
2011 – Cozē brand expands to CozēSoft, Cozē HDW, and Cozē SV, and later Cozē Wrap.
2011 – Robertson adds MEI Bisphera XDD robotic edging equipment.
2012 – Cliff Wiggins, former VP and co-owner of Robertson Optical of Greenville, SC dies, and is honored by ROL managers, staff and friends.
2013 – Robertson introduces is its own privately-labeled AR coatings, ROYAL AR, which not only reduce glare but offer high protection from UV, HEV light, and the harmful type of blue light.
2013 – Robertson begins producing certain KODAK free-form products through its in-house digital surfacing labs
2014 – InvigorEyes AR lenses join Robertson’s privately labeled ROYAL AR products
2014 – SC’s first full-service in-house digital free-form surfacing lab opens at Robertson of Columbia.
2015 – Robertson begins processing UNITY lenses through its in-house digital surfacing.
2015 – Robertson’s privately-labeled POLAR+ launched.
2015 – Certifications contribute to Robertson’s in-house, digital free-form expansions and capabilities. These include: Carl Zeiss Vison, Shamir, Seiko, Cozē, Unity, Vista and KODAK.
2015 – Richard Robertson, co-owner of Robertson Optical Laboratories, dies and is paid tribute by ROL managers, staff and friends.
2016 – Calvin Robertson, Jr., co-owner of Robertson Optical Laboratories, passes away and is honored by ROL executives, staff and friends.