The Norman Transcript

September 23, 2012

Norman telescope business to host grand opening

By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Astronomics moved from former location to Main Street

A little-known Norman company that markets telescopes and distributes them across the United States and in several foreign countries has remained nearly invisible in its own community for more than three decades.

But that is about to change.

The telescope company named Astronomics has moved into a Main Street store front that boasts its logo in big, bold letters.

On Saturday, Astronomics will fete the public at a grand opening celebration at 9 a.m. at 110 E. Main St.

Astronomics features a 4,000-square-foot showroom that houses more than a hundred telescopes at one location.

It is the largest telescope display room in the country, said Fred Bieler, president of the family business.

Alan Traino, who organizes science and astronomy shows throughout the U.S., said he’s not aware of any showroom near that size. He is traveling to Norman from his New Jersey home outside of New York City to see the huge showroom first-hand.

“Astronomics is world-famous, having been in business for a very long time,” Traino said. “Norman doesn’t know it has a little gem. They have a science center right there in town.”

The Bielers are expecting hundreds of people to come to Norman for the grand opening.

Visitors will include vendors from several telescope companies throughout the U.S. and also members of astronomy clubs who want to tour the business. Amateurs interested in astronomy also are encouraged to come by Astronomics.

Thirty-three years ago, Bieler started the company that grew into a large mail-order business, then evolved into an online company, serving clients not only in the U.S. but also Europe, Canada and Australia.

“We are a retailer who sells to individuals, schools, the government like NASA, also MIT — people like that,” Bieler said.

It was his son, Mike Bieler, company vice president, who insisted that the business go public.

Mike Bieler thought it only made sense to reach out to the Norman community and set up a showroom for the public. The family started operating on Main Street in April.

The Bielers believe, in the future, that they will sell to more astronomy enthusiasts who cross the Interstate 35/Interstate 40 divide and come to Norman to view telescopes in the huge showroom.

Fred Bieler said when astronomy addicts sought out the company before Astronomics went public, “they always wanted to know why we didn’t have a showroom.” 

Since the company started, it was housed in three different locations before the family acquired the downtown location. All those years, Astronomics did not see a need to advertise the business, since virtually all of its clients bought their products by mail order or online.

But since they’ve moved, walk-in business sales have quadrupled, Fred Bieler said.

At the grand opening, visitors will be able to peer into space, looking at the sun in the daytime and the universe that night. Events will include Norman North High School students who will assist the public in using the telescopes. This event will occur around the corner from Astronomics, along the sidewalk running near the railroads tracks between the depot and the James Garner statue.

Norman teacher Eileen Grzybowski said her students will bring a solar telescope to look at the sun and solar glasses that viewers can use.

Fred Bieler said his wife, June, always wanted to locate the business in a historic building in downtown Norman.

“My wife got her wish about six months ago,” said Bieler, who bought the building where Danny’s TV and Appliance had been located before it moved to north Norman at 3451 N. Flood Ave.

The Bielers bought the downtown building for $500,000 and spent the next 18 months redoing the storefront and interior at an additional cost of $800,000. They retained the original flooring and brick side walls.

They actually raised the roof above the second floor by three feet. Bieler said that was done to give more overhead space to the gigantic showroom.

Bieler said when he bought the building, it had been vacant for at least a year.

“It was an eyesore, a disgrace. We took it from that and made it something worth looking at,” he said.

Bieler said he is pleased with what is happening in downtown Norman, where several businesses have been remodeling and new ones started.

“We have quite a few good eating places here,” Bieler said.

A few weeks ago, Bieler said 24 members of the Fort Worth astronomy club were visiting Norman and wanted to know a good local place to eat. 

Bieler said, “We directed them to the Diner,” which they had heard of on the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” TV show.

Bieler said he also is telling people about new eating places, like the Syrup Breakfast Boutique that opened across the street.

The Fort Worth club intends to come back for the grand opening and bring along twice as many people.

“Every third person we talk to says they are coming to the event. We will just have to see how many show up,” Bieler said.

 

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