Chris Williams, owner of Williams Eye Works, is a proud native Staten Islander who’s roots are no further than five miles away from his storefront at 1884 Victory Boulevard. Chris was born in Saint Vincent’s Hospital, where his grandmother worked as a nurse, and grew up in West Brighton. He has fond memories of playing and roaming in the woods, fields, and railroad tracks of Mariner’s Harbor, playing with his cousins on his father’s side, the Williams from Arlington Avenue. Before high school, Chris discovered the small joys of being raised in a house between a school yard and the magnificent Clove Lakes Park. The top of the block had a skate board ramp, blacktop baseball field, basketball and paddle ball courts. The bottom of the block was Clove Lakes Park: the brook, the woods, grass fields to play football and soccer. The neighborhood provided everything that a child could need to expand and explore. Because his mother’s family was from West Brighton since about 1900, and his grandfather being self employed in the neighborhood most of his adult life, Chris could not go far without his family knowing what he was up to. His involvement and choice of location for his career was largely driven by the warm memories of his childhood, and his want to give back to the community that he would remain active in for years to come.
Chris discovered his current occupation and trade early in life. Only fourteen years old, in September 1980 of his freshman year at Susan Wagner High School, he found himself working as the “cleaning kid” at Cohen’s Optical in the Staten Island Mall. While there, he was introduced to Mario, a master shopman, who came to temporarily worked at the store from Manhattan. During Mario’s stay on the Island, Chris had formed a friendship that would extend beyond Mario’s temporary post. Mario offered to teach Chris the trade at his Manhattan office, so whenever time permitted, Chris would travel to 5th Avenue and 57th Street to watch Mario make glasses. He practiced what he learned back in Staten Island, and by the time he was sixteen years old Chris had managed to earn a full wage and worked almost full time. After graduating high school, he decided to start working full time making glasses. After a year of full time work, Chris realized that to expand his horizons he needed to formalize his expertise.
With his manager’s support, Chris was able to enroll in a formal training program, working with a New York state licensed optician. He could apply to take the State examination in two years. Two years, several classes at New York Institute of Technology, and some hard work lead Chris to receive his New York State Optician’s License in 1988, the same year he married Donna Teehan, his high school sweetheart. In 1990, after the birth of his oldest son, he made the hard decision to leave Cohen’s to build his own career, working for a small professional practice. After the birth of his only daughter in 1994, Chris realized that the only way to continue to expand his career and income was to open up his own store. In 1995, renting space from a local doctor, Williams Eye Works opened its doors to the public. After the birth of his second son in 1997, Chris realized it was again time to expand, so in January of 1998 Williams Eye Works opened its doors at 1884 Victory Boulevard in Westerleigh, where it remains today.
In just ten years, Williams Eye Works now has twelve full time employees, including opticians and medical billing specialists, and two optometrists. Along the way, Chris has been a committed Boy Scout Leader and Rotarian. He understands the value of having small businesses present to enrich a community. As a businessman and community member, he firmly believes that a local business makes a commitment to serving and enriching its own neighborhood by having a local clientele.