He’s right, and Astronomics, 110 E. Main in Norman, will be more than your average telescope shop.
In 1979, the company began a mail-order optics shop that eventually went online in 1996. The need for physicality grew, and after a $500,000 building purchase that then underwent an extensive 18-month renovation, the result is a showroom due to host a grand opening Sept. 29.
“Manufacturers from all over the world will be coming,” Bieler says. “We will have door prizes with a total in the five figures. Norman North High School will have solar observation, as well as a star party at night for the public.”
Alan Traino, an event organizer who puts on science and astronomy shows
across the U.S., will be there, Bieler says. Traino has been known to
draw crowds of more than 10,000 people and attracts the attention of
media outlets and websites from all over the world. Bieler says he hopes
to convince Traino to host an event in Oklahoma City in the future.
“I am trying to convince [Traino] that Oklahoma would be the perfect central location to host such an event,” he says. “Hopefully the good people of the state will show up to the grand opening so he sees firsthand what Sooners are capable of. I am trying to break his East Coast mentality.”
Because the majority of Astronomics’ business has been online, Bieler says some adjustments had to be made.
“[We had to make] sure we have enough salespeople to handle walk-in business,” he says. “Right now, the Internet does a large chunk of our technical support.”
Although the grand opening isn’t until the end of the month, the shop is open now for those die-hard patrons.
“We have local clientele that have been loyal for years,” he says. “I think the building alone will bring people to us.”
He says his family always wanted a building in downtown Norman, so when it came time to find a space for the telescopes, the 13,000-square-foot building was perfect for their vision.
“Danny’s TV came up for sale and had the footprint we needed,” Bieler says. “It is nice to have a well-trafficked location like downtown that is going through a renaissance.”
As far as actual first-year projections go, no solid numbers were released, although the Bieler family is confident that the demand will grow with the expansion of their already successful business model.
“Currently we sell around the world, so my hope is that [local] families get interested, as it is a great way to spend time together and learn about the universe,” he says.
Although telescopes, which range from $50 to $10,000, are the main focus, Bieler says their scope of product is much wider than that.
“We don’t just sell telescopes; we also have a ton of binoculars for bird watching, sporting events and hunting. We are a full-service optic shop,” he says.