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Two years after the Fisk Building was completed in downtown Amarillo, local optician Ed Broome started an optical business on its second floor. Broome Optical joined several other medical offices in the historic building at 724 S. Polk St. 

Most of those early tenants and medical practices have been lost to time—the Fisk Building itself is now a Courtyard Marriott—but Broome Optical still exists, and celebrates its 95th birthday in 2024.

For Rick Blankenship, Broome’s director of operations since 1999, Broome Optical is a third-generation family business. Ed Broome was Blankenship’s great uncle. “My father, Gary Blankenship, went to work for him in 1940,” Rick says. The elder Blankenship left Amarillo to fight in World War II, then returned to the company in 1945 as an optician.

In 1956, Gary Blankenship and optometrist Jess Ghormley partnered to purchase the company from Ed. They were joined a few years later by Dr. Dean Beddow, who retired in 2021 after more than a half century in eyecare. 

Rick Blankenship, now 70, first joined the family business at age 14, grinding lenses in the Fisk Building lab during the summer months. 

Broome Optical eventually opened a second location in Wolflin Village. As businesses began to leave downtown, however, Broome built its current location on Olsen in 1978, consolidating the Fisk and Wolflin VIllage operations into one.

Today, the company is owned by five partners with eight optometrists and 40 employees serving patients—some of whom have been going to Broome for decades. “This company’s been good to our family for generations,” says Rick, who returned to Broome in 1999 after his own career in the optical business. 

He recognizes companies like Broome Optical are increasingly rare. Most small businesses don’t last even a few decades before being bought out, or changing names, or even closing their doors for good. Ninety-five years of business under the same name is an incredible milestone.

“We’ve been approached numerous times to be purchased by private equity firms that want to come in and realign and change the name,” Rick says. “Our doctors have been wise in saying, ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ The optometrists that have come through here are local people that weren’t as interested in making a ton of money as in taking good care of our patients. That has held true all these years.”