Shopko Optical acquires Third Street Optical in Bemidji

Dave Smith has been with Third Street Optical since 1983 and Dr. James Hess since 1985. In 1987 they became owners by purchasing a franchise as it became Duling Optical. Since 1997, Smith and Hess have operated the shop as an independent business.

Third Street Optical is located at 212 Third St. NW in downtown Bemidji.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Dave Smith says the only change customers will notice as Shopko Optical acquires Third Street Optical in downtown Bemidji is the business sign at 212 Third St. NW.

“The same faces are still going to be here,” said Smith, who has co-owned the business with Dr. James Hess since 1987. “The team that I’ve worked with is all very positive and very energetic. Their desire is keeping the team that we have assembled here in place and keeping the hometown values.”

Shopko Optical, based in Green Bay, Wis., announced the acquisition in a news release on Saturday, April 2. It said Shopko Optical Bemidji opened on Thursday, March 31.

“We are very excited to be part of the Bemidji community,” said Russ Steinhorst, Shopko Optical CEO. “Shopko Optical has built its history by providing patient-centric eye care, high-quality eyewear, and outstanding customer service through its team of dedicated optometrists and opticians.

"Dr. Hess is a great addition to our team and we are happy to be able to support his continued practice with an enhanced selection of eyewear and expanded hours to accommodate our patients.”


Dr. Susan Tesch also serves patients as an independent contractor, Smith said. The business has 10 people on staff, including the owners.

Dave Smith.jpg
Dave Smith

Smith has been with the business since 1983 and Hess since 1985. In 1987 they became owners by purchasing a franchise as it became Duling Optical. Since 1997, Smith and Hess have operated Third Street Optical as an independent business.
They hired a brokerage firm and put the business up for sale in January 2021.

“We knew retirement was going to be imminent in a few years,” Smith said. “So we began looking for exit strategies.”

He said Shopko will provide support in areas that have been challenging for the independent business.

“As our costs keep increasing it’s hard to be competitive,” Smith said. “But I think by partnering with a company like Shopko … instead of having to do everything now, it’s departmentalized.

"From an employer standpoint, we could never really find an affordable insurance package for our employees and now we can partner with them and get group health rates and life and disability and dental. And hiring employees has not been an easy task.”

James Hess.jpg
Dr. James Hess

Shopko’s release added that Hess and Smith “share Shopko Optical’s community values and are looking forward to an association with Bemidji’s local Lions Club to identify eligible children within the area to receive a comprehensive eye exam and pair of glasses through its Kids in Focus program.”

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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