History


Milam’s Optical Service was founded by John S. Milam in 1924 as part of the John S. Milam Optical Company.

John Sanders Milam was born May 4, 1895, in Worthington, Indiana. After attending Wabash College and serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War I, John Milam went to work for the George S. Johnson Optical Company in Chicago. He was later transferred to Nashville where he subsequently became manager of that branch. When the George S. Johnson Optical Company was sold to American Optical Company, John Milam, at the age of 29, founded the John S. Milam Optical Company. Because of the ... READ MORE

Milam’s Optical Service was founded by John S. Milam in 1924 as part of the John S. Milam Optical Company.

John Sanders Milam was born May 4, 1895, in Worthington, Indiana. After attending Wabash College and serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War I, John Milam went to work for the George S. Johnson Optical Company in Chicago. He was later transferred to Nashville where he subsequently became manager of that branch. When the George S. Johnson Optical Company was sold to American Optical Company, John Milam, at the age of 29, founded the John S. Milam Optical Company. Because of the monopolistic power that American Optical Company exercised in 1924, the establishment of an independent optical company was considered an impossibility. However, the company grew, doing wholesale optical business in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The only dispensing to the public was done at the Company offices on the first floor of the Doctor’s Building in downtown Nashville. Milam’s Optical was the premier optical dispensary in Nashville at that time.

In December of 1948 at the age of 53, John Milam died of a heart attack. At the age of 26, John S. Milam, Jr. became president.

John S. Milam, Jr. had actually joined the company in 1946, after completing his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II and attaining his degree in engineering at Vanderbilt University. The company, at that time, had the main office in the Doctor’s Building in Nashville. It, also, had branches in Jackson and Johnson City, Tennessee, as well as Paducah, Kentucky. (It’s only dispensing office continued to be in Nashville).

In 1951, after completion of military service in the U.S. Army, and attaining a degree in engineering at Vanderbilt University, I, Edmund D. (Dan) Milam (the second son), joined the company.

In March of 1952, Milam’s Optical Service was formed and the dispensing business was separated from the wholesale business. At this time, I was named president of the dispensing business.

In 1955, the third son, L. Moore Milam, joined the company and worked in the dispensing business as well. Like his brothers, he too attended Vanderbilt University and had joined the U.S. Military prior to joining the company.

The current laws authorizing the regulation of dispensing were passed. As a result, dispenser licensing became a requirement in the fifties. Our company also started fitting contact lenses during this time.

On January 1, 1960 we opened the office in the Mid-State Medical Center at Baptist. This was the first building built at Baptist. Throughout the sixties we also opened an office in the Medical Art Building at Vanderbilt, and an office in the old Green Hills Shopping Center. The sixties saw the advent of the “direct frame salesman”. American factories, such as American Optical, Bausch & Lomb, Shuron, Zylite, Universal, etc., had always controlled the frame market with their distribution through the wholesale lab. It was during this time that salesmen representing Safilo frames gave a big boost to style and selection in eyewear. Yet another landmark event during this time in history was the creation of CR-39 plastic lenses.

In the seventies, CR-39 plastic lenses and large designer frames like ‘Oscar de la Renta’ and ‘Diane von Fustenberg’ gained in popularity. Along with this came much larger competition: Eckard Drug, Super D Drugs, Super X Drugs, etc., all started dispensing. During these years of growth (60’s and 70’s), Milam’s opened stores at 21st & Hayes Medical Building, Westgate Shopping Center, Windlands Shopping Center, as well as Franklin and Priest Lake.

The eighties brought about many changes in the eyecare industry. A new progressive lens called Varilux was introduced, as well as the “One Hour” service by a company named Lenscrafters in Cincinnati, Ohio. The eighties also brought about the idea of “lifestyle dispensing”, well as polycarbonate safety lenses and UV protection in lenses. It was at this time that my son, Chris Milam (current president of Milam’s) joined the company. Chris aided in developing our first computerized bookkeeping system, as well as managing the store at Vanderbilt, and lecturing the Residents in Ophthalmology at Vanderbilt.

As the rate of change quickened throughout the eighties and nineties, so did the rate of change in lens materials, new styles, new products, and designer frames. Eyewear became not just a necessity for some, but also a trendy new fashion statement!

The twenty-first century has brought about many changes in not only the areas of fashion, business, and the economy, but also style, lens adaptations, lens production capabilities, and many changes here at Milam’s Optical Service. Two new additions to Milam’s are our expanded Contact Lens and Low Vision product areas (these are offered at our Mid-State location). Milam’s also employs the most licensed opticians (for our size) in the Mid-State area. We are still going strong, have pride in our people, our products, our services, and obviously our customers!!

Milam’s still relies on our sister wholesale company off Music Row, John S. Milam Optical Company, run by Jack Milam (John S. Milam’s son).

Milam’s Optical Service is owned by native Nashvillians, whom are engaged full-time in the optical business. It is totally independent. Its’ only goal is the finest service possible to our customers, as well as the ophthalmological and optometric professions. It has a long proud tradition. With your continued loyalty, help, and dedication, it will continue to have a sound and bright future.

Thank You!
Edmund D. Milam
Owner

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