I grew up shopping at Shopko. It was a big deal to be able to experience one of the original super stores in our area and I loved it. I was sad to hear about the Shopko story and I wrote about it in the May 2020 release of my book Authentic Confidence: The Secret to Loving Your Work and Leading an Unstoppable Career. I shared that the Shopko Corporation was founded in 1962 and had 18,000 employees in 2018 before filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 16, 2019.

Thankfully, the Shopko story does not end there. Through the efforts of some resilient and caring leaders, Shopko Optical emerged. The story is one I wish I could have included in the book as I believe it demonstrates an amazing example of Authentic Confidence in action. Since I didn’t know this story when I published the book, I wanted to share it now.

Shopko Optical CEO Russ Steinhorst explains the story.

“The creation of today’s Shopko Optical is an incredible story and humbling experience that reflects the determination, courage and commitment of our employees and eye care professionals who are dedicated to keeping a good business alive while maintaining and building relationships with patients across our footprint in the Midwestern and Western communities we have served for decades.

After a period of uncertainty, the leadership team of Shopko Optical, with the support of Monarch Alternative Capital, took a line of business from a struggling retailer and created a new business built on the loyalty and passion of the employees, doctors, and patients.  Although several potential partners recognized this unique opportunity, Monarch’s commitment was solidified after interacting with the employees and patients at the store level.  And so it began, like a phoenix from the ashes.

Looking back over the last year, Shopko Optical is understandably proud of what we were able to accomplish.  Since May 2019, Shopko Optical has retained 95% of its optometrists, continued operation of a state-of-the-art manufacturing lab, and met our goal to open 81 stand-alone optical centers with plans to open an additional 35 locations in 2020.  The company employs around 750 people including optometrists and opticians and our expansion could create 280 to 350 new jobs by the end of the year.

Shopko Optical is a new optical retailer with 42 years of history and loyalty. The backstory of dedication and transformation is the reason why patients stay, and doctors and staff too. It’s truly a very exciting time for Shopko Optical as we continue to transform and build on our story.”

Shopko Optical is equally committed to serving customers and staff. Shopko Optical has partnered with the Center for Exceptional Leadership at St. Norbert College for leadership development. Key leaders are participating in the leadership development program offered by the Center for Exceptional Leadership and Shopko Optical continues to see the value in personal and professional growth opportunities. This investment is a continued sign that Shopko Optical is making a lasting impact in the lives of customers and staff alike.

Executive Director Dean Stewart shares, “The Shopko Optical participants have been a great addition to the Center for Exceptional Leadership. They continue to impress us as leaders and human beings. We are excited to be a strategic partner with Shopko in the growth of their leaders.”

Please join me in congratulating Shopko Optical and the over 750 employees that call Shopko Optical home.

Ben Fauske
Author and Coach
Authentic Confidence

Consulting Leader
Center for Exceptional Leadership
St. Norbert College


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