Fox Optical & Gallery, located on East Third Street in Bethlehem, is an optometrist office run by Tom Fox. He works alongside his husband and three other colleagues. (Stephanie Kasulka/B&W Staff)

Bethlehem eye doctor blends vision with visual arts


Sitting in the optometrist’s office as a young boy, when his now-gray hair was still strawberry red, Tim Fox found himself jealous of his three sisters as they picked out new pairs of glasses. Having been the only one of his siblings to pass the eye exam, his vision wasn’t in need of correction.

At the time, he found this slightly disappointing.

Now, at age 63, as a glasses wearer and optometrist, Fox said vision is one of the most important senses, yet one that people often take for granted.

“Vision impacts everything we do,” Fox said. “Vision is really the primary input to the brain. We use vision for pretty much everything we do, but we sort of take it for granted in a way. We just expect our eyes are always going to focus and work.”

Fox said when that expectation is not met and someone experiences issues with their vision, it’s time to visit Fox Optical & Gallery.

Located at 28 E. 3rd St, Fox Optical & Gallery is staffed by five employees, all of whom have been working together since its opening in 1998. 

As the only optometrist, Fox is responsible for conducting eye exams, assessing visual acuity and diagnosing issues affecting patients’ eyes.

He works alongside a team made up of two women, who share responsibility at the front desk and as contact lens technicians, in addition to two opticians responsible for matching customers with prescriptions and frames.

One of these opticians is Fox’s husband, Mike Belletti, but Fox said he thinks of the whole staff as his “work family.”

Although Fox said eye health always comes first and foremost, as the name suggests, the business does not serve solely as an optometrist’s office.

“(Fox Optical & Gallery is) an intersection of ocular health, a place to find fashion frames you’d find in New York or Philly and an art experience,” Fox said.

In addition to their large assortment of specialty glasses, an exam room, a contact lens fitting room and a lab where they can customize glasses on-premises, the business’s waiting room also doubles as a small art gallery.

Belletti said in addition to his role as an optician, he is the business’s gallery director and works with local artists to curate shows to display in-store.

“Vision and the visual arts, they go hand in hand,” Belletti said. “We knew we didn’t want to decorate and then just look at the same art for 25 years.”

Fox said by rotating through artists every two or three months, the gallery has hosted over 125 total shows.

The current show on display is an exhibition of collages and paintings titled The Light is Everything. The artist behind these pieces is Pearl Rosenberg, a recently retired professor at Muhlenberg College and a Fox Optical patient for almost 20 years.

“He is a wonderful doctor,” Rosenberg said. “He makes you feel like you are his only patient, giving you thoughtful time and attention.

When creating her art, Rosenberg wears a pair of prescription glasses she purchased from Fox. The glasses have an opaque frame on the sides and bottom of each lens, leaving the top open so that when she looks back and forth between her subject and her art her view is never obstructed.

A piece of art hangs in an exam room of Fox Optical & Gallery. The optometrist office has been operating in Bethlehem since 1998, and it’s lobby doubles as a small art gallery.(Stephanie Kasulka/B&W Staff)

As a 73-year-old artist, Rosenberg said the natural degradation of her vision can be difficult to handle. 

In the summer of 2017, she underwent surgery in both eyes to fix her cataracts.

“The morning after the surgery, I looked out the window and couldn’t believe how bright blue the pool was,” she said. “I thought, ‘Was I not seeing color?’ Because color is so important to me, it was life-changing to realize that I could see colors again.”

Rosenberg said because of the limited space at Fox Optical & Gallery, her art is not confined to just the front gallery but also dispersed throughout the office. 

She said her artwork is propped up by the glasses displays, tucked into alcoves, hung in hallways and even displayed in the restroom.

“(Belletti) was so careful to say, ‘Is it ok if I hang them in the bathroom?’ And my bathroom is full of art, so I didn’t mind,” Rosenberg said. “He said some artists are offended, but I said I loved it.”

In addition to art, the office houses an Easter egg hunt-esque collection of fox-themed memorabilia that Belletti said has been gifted by patients throughout the years or donated by Fox’s father — who was also gifted various fox knick-knacks throughout his life. 

Belletti remembers the stories behind most of the felted, metal-worked, 3D-printed or wood-carved foxes scattered across the office, but he said he has received too many to keep track.

This personalized relationship fostered with customers and the Bethlehem community is part of what makes Fox’s business so special to him. 

When recommending glasses, his team takes into account a customer’s face shape, nose, ears, personal sense of style and prescription to make sure they are matched with a pair that looks flattering and doesn’t sit crooked or uncomfortably.

“(Glasses are) something you use every day of your life,” Fox said. “You change clothes every day, but you put on the same pair of glasses. So there are people who look at glasses not just from a functional approach, but as fashion.”

Fox is one of these people. 

He said he sells glasses from high-quality brands that create frames in stylistic shapes and patterns. Glasses are an important accessory in his opinion — like “jewelry for your face” — that can change someone’s look or be used for the expression of personal style.

Because of this, he treats each person who walks in the office as a unique individual.

With companies like Lenscrafters and Warby Parker digitizing the eyewear experience, Fox said some people prefer the convenience of online shopping. Still, he feels confident that his customers value the quality and customer service behind his business.

 “We can’t worry about who’s not coming here,” Fox said. “All we have to do is worry about everyone who walks through that door, treat them right, make them feel comfortable and give them good service.”

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