The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 25, 2013

Small businesses booming in uncertain economic times

By Lora Scripps

— Small businesses are one of the factors that drive the local economy.

Businesses like Athens Eye Clinic and TR Electrical LLC are two small businesses in Limestone County that have seen increases during the last year.

Athens Eye Clinic

Dr. Robert Sandlin started Athens Eye Clinic — dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases of the eye — more than 28 years ago.  Since that time Sandlin and staff have seen more than 25,000 patients and outgrown two locations.

Sandlin received his Doctor of Optometry degree as well as his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UAB. The Cullman native said the clinic first started on Jefferson Street across from what is now Reliance Bank. Outgrowing that site after six years, the clinic moved to Clinton Street across from Athens Middle School.

Recently, the clinic relocated to 22097 Medical Village Drive next to Medical East. Sandlin said although the staff liked the Clinton Street location it was decided the new location would be in their best interest.

The practice is shared with Dr. Megan Morris Evans who joined Athens Eye four years ago. Evans is an Athens native who earned her Doctorate of Optometry at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis.

“We knew we were expanding,” Sandin said. A contributing factor is the clinic seeing more and more patients with glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy as “baby boomers” move into their senior years. The three diseases account for about 50 percent of the clinic’s time. 

“We will now be able to handle a higher volume of patients,” he said.

The clinic also has the capability of adding a third doctor in the future.

The practice offers vision and eye health examinations and provides medical treatment for most eye diseases.

Athens Eye Clinic also has an optical boutique with frames for all budgets and latest lenses including progressive no-line bifocals, transitions, thinner/lighter hi-index lenses, and no glare/reflection-free lenses.

The frame and lenses section of the office has been expanded in order to provide a better selection and is now double its original size. Sandlin said the clinic staff stays up to date with on-going special training in order to provide accurate information and assistance.

Sandlin, who is married to the clinic’s on-site registered nurse and optician Carol, said since moving to the area 28 years ago, the Sandlin family has watched the county grow and considers the area an excellent place to raise children.

“Limestone County is a great mix of people,” Sandlin said. He believes the area will continue growing and doing well for years to come.

Sandlin said the main focus at Athens Eye Clinic is “put patients first.”

“Our patients are like family,” he said. “It’s one big family.”

To find out more about Athens Eye Clinic, visit

TR Electrical

TR Electrical, owned by father and son, Tim Bauer and Robbie McDowell, opened in Athens four years ago.

Since that time the electrical contracting business has doubled in size, staff and service.

TR Electrical serves the Tennessee Valley offering residential and commercial services including installation, upgrades and repairs.

In June, the business opened a new office and warehouse at 1631 L. Gray Boulevard in Athens. “We doubled business after moving there,” said Bauer, who spent 30 years at Delphi before starting TR Electrical. 

The business has also boosted its staff — expanding from eight to 16 employees.

Although TR Electrical was created in the midst of a slow economy, Bauer said the business has seen increases. Commercial contracting makes up the biggest increase. “We had to be competitive, aggressive with our bidding and watch our budgets,” he said. “I’m satisfied with where we’ve come.”

Some of the company’s projects have included Bethel Church of Christ and Lakeview United Methodist Church and the Limestone County Correctional Facility — all damaged in the April 27, 2011, or March 2, 2012, tornadoes, respectively.

Bauer said the events were unfortunate, but that rebuilding projects did help industry and created jobs. “I think it helped a lot of people in this area as far as work,” he said.

TR Electrical also worked on the industrial expansion of Electricfil in Elkmont and will be working on another phase of the expansion in the future.

The business also put in a bid for the new Athens-Limestone Library where they recently did some demolition work. 

Some other jobs include Badcock Furniture in Decatur, Royal-Mason Funeral Home on Browns Ferry Road, Davis Eye Care on Hobbs Street and Bona Vista, an upscale Mexican restaurant being constructed on U.S. 72 in Madison in front of Target.

Bauer said the key to the growing business is “a good group of employees that work hard.”

“We strive to keep the customer satisfied,” he said. “Whether it’s a church, house or industrial building — customers have to be satisfied or you won’t be in business this day and age.”

TR Electrical has an A-plus rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce.

“TR Electrical has grown in a very short period of time,” said Chamber President Jennifer Williamson. “I think it’s encouraging when you see a small, locally-owned business see that much growth.”

To find out more about TR Electrical, visit

Williamson said the Chamber’s motto is “Shop Athens First.”

“I think the growth Athens Eye Clinic and TR Electrical has experienced shows that the community and its citizens are supporting local business,” she said.