The Diary: In the frame, city optician eyes 30th

Optician Eleanor Bird (right) and assistant Samantha Law, of Bird opticians, Surrey Street, Sheffield.
Optician Eleanor Bird (right) and assistant Samantha Law, of Bird opticians, Surrey Street, Sheffield.
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Bifocals, varifocals, contacts, kodaks, Ray-bans and Deirdre Barlow frames?

They do them all at Bird Opticians in Surrey Street. But one thing they won’t sell you? Glasses for parrots.

“That’s definitely the strangest request we’ve ever had,” says manager Eleanor Bird. “We thought it was a joke at first. But this woman was serious. She said it had cataracts. We had to tell her we were called Bird Opticians because that’s our last name. We gave her the number for a vets.”

It is one of the many ‘eye-lights’ experienced down three decades at this little family shop. Another one will come next month when the firm - opened by John Bird on June 15, 1983, and now run by daughter Eleanor - celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Staff are currently working on a special exhibition of history’s best glasses-wearers. It includes Elton John, John Lennon, Jack Duckworth (obvs) and Sheffield’s own Richard Hawley. Which is convenient as that last fella is a customer.

“We have to make his glasses specially as the line was discontinued years ago,” notes Eleanor, 42, of Nether Edge.

It’s perhaps that kind of customer service which has kept Bird at the top all these years.

“Regulars trust my dad to the point where, these days, sometimes they’ll not even come in to the shop for new glasses,” explains Eleanor. “They’ll phone in and just say ‘Tell him to send me what he thinks will suit my face - he’ll get it right’. It’s lovely to have that with people.”

She herself joined the 10-staff business in 2006. Up until then she had worked with horses and swore she’d never get involved with the family shop, which had mum Elaine as receptionist.

“I worked here once when I was a teenager and walked out half way through the day,” she explains. “Dad stuck me on reception and I hated it. But then he needed someone to cover for holidays seven years ago. I came in for a week or two and have been here since. I love it.”

It’s a good job perhaps. John - who worked for Dolland and Aitchison before eyeing the opportunity to set up independently - is now 71 and partially retired. Which means Eleanor will soon be running the business on her own.

“It feels special to keep my dad’s legacy going,” she says. “He’s built up a real reputation - we want to keep that going.”

An open day with cake will take place on June 22.