When Halim was a chemistry student in Paris, he could not have predicted that he would be an optician and business owner in Toronto, where he has opened up l’Atelier, an optometry studio and salon space, in December 2020.
Here, we speak to Halim about moving across continents for his career, why “l’Atelier” is the perfect name to describe his business, his feelings on being an employee vs. being a business owner and how he combines science and fashion when helping his customers discover the “new look” they are after when they walk through the door.
On Halim’s origins and moving to Canada from Europe
I was born in Monaco, in the south of France to Algerian parents. I started working in optometry in 2007 in Paris. I originally wanted to open l’Atelier in Paris, but after the terrible shooting in November of 2015 I no longer felt as safe or comfortable in the city. Around that time I received a job offer in Montreal and moved there in 2016. Without the language barrier, I thought it would be easier to move to Quebec first but I always liked Toronto. In 2018, I decided to move to Toronto to open my business. I like a big-city vibe.
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On naming the business and opening setbacks
I chose the name l’Atelier for my business because it reflects the kind of place I wanted it to be. In French it translates to a studio or creative space. I wanted l’Atelier to be a combination of the two: studio and workshop. A creative place where work is done at a high attention to detail.
The official opening of l’Atelier was meant to be March 2020, with all things COVID-19 related, this wasn’t in the cards. We were forced to delay the opening date to December 2020.
On mixing science and fashion
Originally, I studied chemistry, and I really loved it, but I didn’t want to be in a laboratory all of the time. I wanted to interact with people so I chose optometry. I began to work as an optician in “Le Marais”, a neighborhood in paris where everything happened during Paris Fashion Week. Many designers had shops there, and new brands came just for the week to host an opening party or event. This is where I discovered my passion for fashion.
At l’Atelier, I mix the science side of my job with the fashion side. We talk to customers about the look they are going for, and we help them achieve it.
On the customer experience at l’Atelier
When customers come to l’Atelier, they like that it’s not your typical optometry shop. We’ve created a vibe and welcoming environment in our shared space. Its an open bright space with plants, photos and workshop. The shared workspace compliment each other perfectly. People like being in a place where everyone’s trying out a new look, it’s a good place to pick out new eyewear.
On being a business owner
I love owning a business, because I am involved in all the decision making. We work as a team and build ideas based on experience and knowledge to create the most beneficial overall experience for our clients.
On using the new Square Stand to run his business and what’s next for l’Atelier
I really love the sleek design of the new Square Stand. It really fits the aesthetic at l’Atelier. The Square Stand helps to make the overall customer experience smooth. Customers instantly know that they can insert the card or tap — everything is right on the screen, it’s obvious and very convenient. It makes the payment process easy, just a part of the conversation. I also really appreciate the flexibility of the system to act as a POS hub for multiple businesses and revenue streams — tracking sales, appointments and customer communication. My ultimate goal is to open more locations of l’Atelier and to continue using Square products as we grow!