This year marks the 121st birthday of J Muller and Sons, South Africa’s oldest optometrists, celebrating over a century of providing incomparable service quality and quality eye-care. Since Joseph Muller opened the doors of his new practice at 104 Longmarket Street in 1890, he could not have imagined that his company would still be serving the city of Cape Town 121 years later. Originally from a small Catholic Village in the Black Forest of Germany, the 22 year old Joseph Muller arrived in South Africa and established the first optometric practice in South Africa. Today, Mullers is still being run by third and fourth generation descendants of Muller.
Since its inception, Muller’s has been located on the same street corner and its iconic Art Deco black and white exterior has been a Cape Town landmark since 1920. The celebrated Longmarket Street building has watched as South African history unfolded before its eyes. From the second Boer War, the Apartheid and now democracy, it partook in South Africa’s development whilst its exterior has largely remained unchanged for the past 121 years.
Walking into Mullers, one feels as if they have stepped out of Cape Town’s city centre and onto London’s high street circa the early 1920’s. The shop’s carefully preserved interior is a treasure trove of antique furniture, retro fittings and historical artifacts, enveloping its patrons in old-world charm. Glass display cases display historic optometry tools, an old telephone, early examining chair and one of Cape Town’s oldest working lifts contribute to the shops museum-like atmosphere. Due to the careful preservation of records and tools, Mullers has succeeded in chronicling the South African optometric industry’s evolution since its establishment. Elements of the Muller’s store juxtapose the past and the present with the latest eyewear being encased in antique display cabinets. Fashion as well as Sports brands such as Tag Heuer, Bvlgari, Diesel, Emporia Armani, Georgio Armani, Guess, Prada, Quicksilver, Roberto Cavalli, Timberland, Boss, Vogue, Tom Ford, Oakley, David Green, Calvin Klein, Ray-Ban, Alain Mikli and Anne et Valentin showcase the tasteful contrast of old and new.
Initially, Joseph Muller combined a watch-making and jewellery business with an optician’s practice, located across the road from the current premises. Since its establishment, Mullers has been closely associated with the British College of Optometrists with Joseph Mullers name being the 79th entry on the original register of what was then the British Optical Association. Mullers has also had a long history with the South African Optometric Association with family members serving in various capacities on its committees. Following Joseph Muller’s success, two of his five sons, three of four grandsons and a great grandson, Peter Muller, followed in their patriarch’s footsteps and became optometrists.
A household name in eyewear within the Western Cape, Muller’s patrons have been returning for good quality service year after year. From the beginning, Mullers was frequented by famous names including Sir Joseph Milner, governor of the Cape Colony until 1899 and Governor General of Natal Sir Walter Heley-Hutchinson until 1901. Prominent clients also included MP’s and cabinet ministers, due to its location nearby to the House of Parliament.
The public have helped build the establishment of Mullers Optometrists, this support has been reciprocated by Mullers involvement with The Shine Centre: A non-profit organization that provides support in literacy and language enrichment to underprivileged second language children, Grades 2 & 3.
A program was run where free visual screening was offered to 200 – 300 pupils from various schools in and around Cape Town. This outreach resulted in a grade 5 child whose life was transformed after she underwent successful corrective eye surgery. Combined efforts with David Green Eyewear initiated the ‘Buy One – Give One’ campaign whereby each David Green product purchased in store, was matched by David donating a frame to the “Shine Project”.
From humble beginnings, and standing the test of time in a constantly evolving South Africa, Mullers is first and oldest Optometrists established since 1890. Today Mullers Optometrists have branches around the Cape Peninsula, all of which still give the quality and friendly service Mullers has become famous for, 121 years of successful eye care.