By Melinda Toy, Product Marketing & Communications Manager

Stepping foot into Cherry Optical, Inc., Kings of Leon hums in the background. I’m greeted by a friendly twenty-something who hops up from her chair with a big smile, asking how she can assist me. As I’m waiting to meet with Adam Cherry, the current company president, I notice the youthful group of employees all engaged, working in an energizing harmony. A friendly dog comes to say hello as I’m seated in the waiting area. It’s hard not to feel the excitement resonating from this quaint building in northeastern Wisconsin. When Adam arrives, I immediately notice the unique, stylish frames he’s wearing. As we walk back to his office, he shares a quick laugh with another employee, who has a noticeable spring in his step.

This brief exposure to the seemingly smoothly-operating business makes it hard to believe that just 17 years ago Cherry Optical Inc., headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., was an unrealized dream of Joe and Lynn Cherry.

Joe Cherry grew up in a small town in southern Kentucky. He enlisted in the U.S. navy when he was 17 years old and served four years of active duty. After his service, Joe took an entry level position at Wisconsin Optical where he met Lynn, a Marinette, Wis. native. The pair spent their younger years working at the Midwest optical laboratory doing simple processing. This story just gets started here. Not only did they find each other, but by the time they left, Joe had worked his way up to president of the company, one of the largest optical laboratories in the nation, and Lynn into a management position as well.

As a strong team, Joe and Lynn Cherry decided they were ready to take their careers to the next level. They gave up their rewarding and secure positions in order to pursue their dream of running their own optical laboratory. Joe wanted to deliver world-class service and superior products. Lynn had the dream of providing a positive, safe environment where all employees felt like they were family. The only way this seemed possible was to start their own company and create the capabilities and culture they were craving.

Cherry Optical, Inc. was born in a moment Joe calls “an awakening.” Joe likes to tell people, “The second hardest thing I’ve done in my life was telling my wife I planned to quit my job, create my own laboratory, and work for myself. The hardest thing I’ve done in my life was asking my wife to quit her job and work together.”

The Cherry’s took a leap of faith together and opened Cherry Optical, Inc. in 1999. When the company started, there were two employees. From there, the company grew in stages to what it is now: a leading independent optical laboratory. This was achieved through integrity, providing superior-quality products, and maintaining a focus on continued education. Today, Cherry Optical, Inc. serves eye care professionals and their patients within the United States and internationally.

Adam Cherry, Joe and Lynn’s son, has now taken the helm as President. He remembers, with great admiration, some of the biggest successes and challenges his parents experienced over the years. Adam recalls that one of the major challenges his parents faced was “overcoming the ‘mom-and-pop’ perception in the marketplace.”

Cherry Optical Digital Surfacing Lab
"We were doing something no independent optical laboratory had done before. People didn’t think we could compete. However, my father had developed strong relationships over the years and people liked doing business with him. He would get things done and delivered above expectations consistently. He also worked harder, and learned faster than anyone; it was only a matter of time before my parents overcame the stigma of being a small operation with limited capabilities.”

Hard work and the determination to master jobs no one else was willing to was just a few of the qualities that Adam Cherry says brought his father success.

“When my dad was working for the large optical company, he would study and learn about new technologies inside and out that others thought were too complicated to figure out.”

Joe became an expert on one technology in particular, Varilux lenses. He had people from all areas of the company, including sales, customer service, and operations ask him about the product. Through this expertise, Joe made himself an unmatched asset and was able to work his way up from a position in processing to sales and, eventually, President.

Adam Cherry has walked a similar path to this father. He had worked in processing and various other positions in the laboratory at Cherry Optical when he was a teenager. After a brief time at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Adam was still figuring out what exactly he wanted to do. It wasn’t long into this exploratory phase when Adam’s father called and asked if he would be interested in working in the family business. Adam agreed to give it a try, but was not totally convinced this was the right fit for him. This time he started in the customer service department. He became fascinated with learning about all aspects of the business, getting to know customers, and even the world of opticians and their patients. From customer service he transitioned into sales and marketing, where he was able to work more with customers, which was his true passion. Today, Adam is President of Cherry Optical.


Culture is a huge focus for Cherry Optical. Lynn Cherry always believed in adding a positive person to the team above someone with higher intelligence or better education. Adam says his mother’s philosophy has had a tremendous influence on how he hires employees.

“It’s 90% attitude and 10% I’ll teach you,” Adam preaches. “Turnover has been basically non-existent here. We make it our goal to empower our employees and support them in every way of life. We hire people where mutual respect and accountability is key, focusing on their strengths and investing in them to become better. When they realize we’re committed to them, they’re committed to Cherry Optical.”

Major milestones have been reached throughout the company’s journey. The first, Adam recalls, was the expansion into digital surfacing. Cherry Optical was the first small laboratory in the United States, at the time, to invest in this new worldwide technology.  There came a pivotal point when the company had to decide either to improve upon its existing technology or invest in something new.

“Although it would have been easy to maintain what was familiar and affordable, something told us that we needed to take the risk of implementing the new technology,” Adam recalls. “This was just another skill for us to master, and we weren’t afraid of it. It’s been a competitive advantage and made us future-proof. In 2008 we officially became the number one lab to be 100% digital.”

Adam has continued to place an emphasis on the need for current technology. Since the implementation of digital surfacing, the company has invested in top machinery for lens-cutting, eliminating the old grinding method. While many optical laboratories are still using the older methods, Cherry made it a priority to expand their capabilities with cutting-edge technology, which gives them the ability to provide more options and produce more advanced designs to offer their large customer base.

In 2012, Cherry Optical made another investment in technology through the purchase of Anti-Reflective (AR) coating equipment. Acquiring this equipment allowed the company to bring this process in house, one they were previously outsourcing. It was a significant venture, but worthwhile as they have been able to become an expert in AR-coating and operate more efficiently.

Anti-Reflective Facility at Cherry Optical
Savvy partners in all areas of the business have been important to the company’s success. Throughout many of their milestones, Cherry Optical has relied on a strong partnership with their financial institution and good relationships with their accountants, attorneys, and other outside experts who keep their best interests in the forefront.

“We see Bank Mutual as part of our core team,” said Adam. “Our relationship manager has always gone above and beyond to explore possibilities to help our business grow. We’ve been able to purchase the equipment we’ve needed to expand and stay top of our market, finding solutions that make us more efficient and profitable. A real differentiator is that Bank Mutual has confidence in us to run the business throughout each cycle. Plus, we never feel we’re on this journey alone. The Bank Mutual team has given us the advice we need to succeed at each milestone. It’s truly been a win-win partnership.”


Adam says his greatest inspiration has been his parents and the customers he gets to serve every day. “Knowing we are making a difference, and being able to customize products and solutions that ‘wow’ our customers, keeps me going every day.”

Adam has watched the passionate work of his parents over the years. He has that same intensity deep down. “Witnessing the way they lived their lives and ran this business motivates me to keep providing solutions for our customers that exceed expectations. At the end of the day, that is what gives me the greatest satisfaction.”

Before our meeting closes, Adam shows me a large framed plaque on the wall in his office. There are pieces of paper with handwritten notes. Beaming and pointing to a faded yellow sheet of notebook paper Adam says, “This is the first budget my parents put together. When they left the large optical employer, they wanted to make sure they could make the mortgage payment.”

Other fragments of history are framed within. A sense of pride and the dedication to the journey is easily felt when gazing at the collage of the early years. In the center is a statement that reads “Hard work, dedication and professionalism has proven to forge the strongest of foundations.” I ask Adam if that statement is the mantra for the company. He responds without hesitation, “Most definitely. We stick to those words to the utmost, in everything we do. So far, this journey has been quite a ride; a lot of fun. Cherry Optical will continue well on into the future, with these same principles my parents believed in as our guide.”