September 27, 2014
Warby Parker Debuts First SE Eyeglasses Store at Buckhead Atlanta Sunday, Sept. 28
Warby Parker, the New York-based designer eyewear company founded in 2010 by college students, will open its first Southeast store at high noon Sunday (Sept. 28) in Buckhead Atlanta, conveniently located directly across the street from the Buckhead Library branch.
The opening of the store, located at 262 Buckhead Avenue, will be a full-day celebration from noon to 7 p.m., with treats being served by King of Pops ice cream vendor. Store hours Monday through Sunday will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Warby Parker’s website states the company “was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.”
All 100 styles of eyeglasses, totaling 300 SKUs (each style has more than one color), sells for $95, including prescription lenses. And, for each pair of glasses it sells, Warby Parker donates a pair for distribution to someone in need.
According to the company, almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses, “which means that 15percent of the world’s population cannot effectively learn or work. To help address this problem, Warby Parker partners with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.”
But Warby Parker is not the only new opening planned at OliverMcMillan’s Buckhead Atlanta this coming week and the week or two following.
Shake Shack—the burger, hot dog and frozen custard stand that first started in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, will be the first restaurant to open at Buckhead Atlanta at 11 a.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 30) with nearly 2,500 square feet fronting on Peachtree Road and with a rooftop dining deck.
Two additional restaurants, Thirteen Pies and Corso Coffee, are expected to open the week of Oct. 6. Thirteen Pies, known as Fireside Pies in its native Texas, will serve artisan pizzas made in wood-fired ovens as well as hand-cut pasta, market-fresh salads and homemade desserts and appetizers. It will be located directly next to Warby Parker on Buckhead Avenue.
Corso Coffee, which at present will be the northern most shop fronting on Peachtree Road at Buckead Atlanta, is an Italian-style coffee bar that originated at Times Square in New York
City. It will serve patrons morning to night with handcrafted beverages, food and music.
As for more retail shop openings, Scoop NYC is slated to open on Buckhead Avenue near Warby Parker on Oct. 1, although there still seemed to a lot of work remaining to be done to the store this past weekend. Helmet Lang is slated to open sometime after Oct. 4, possibly Oct. 9, according to OliverMcMillan and L’Occitane is expected to open possibly during the week of Oct. 6.
As OliverMcMillan spokespersons have said all along, the retail shops and restaurants will be opening one at a time—probably over the next six months—as they do in most communities. They have emphasized this is not the opening of a shopping mall, but rather a mixed-use community.
Every idea starts with a problem, Warby Parker’s owners explain in their company’s history. “Ours was simple: glasses are too expensive. We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining.”
Finding no available options to finding a pair of great frames that left their wallets bare, they started Warby Parker to create an alternative—circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly.
The Warby Parker website states: “We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket. We also believe that everyone has the right to see.”
On Friday (Sept. 26), the new 2,000-square-foot Warby Parker store at Buckhead Atlanta was buzzing with activity—putting the finishing touches on the dozen or so display bays stocked with glasses and books (yes, books too), the nook with tufted leather banquettes for reading and relaxing, the library tables with old-school built-in brass lighting, Reference Desk and the Photo Booth, to satisfy patrons’ self-documentation needs.
Of the 2,000 square feet, 1,650 comprises the public space, which is designed by Warby Parker’s team to appeal to the community’s local audience. This store, the company’s eighth retail store and one of its most spacious, has chevron wood floors and rich, dark millwork and the southeast debut of the Reference Desk, where customers pick up orders, meet with an optician for adjustments, and speak with one of the retail Advisors (the term used for all the store’s staff).
Atlanta native Terry Slade, is returning home to be the assistant Store Leader, working with a staff of 21 advisors all hired locally in Atlanta. BuckheadView also met with Warby Parker’s inhouse public relatioons coordinator, Kaki Read, who graduated from University of Georgia in 2010 with degrees in public relations and fashion.
Incidentally, all of the store’s advisors will be dressed in uniforms inspired by Bill Cunningham’s classic “Bleu de Travail” French worker jackets.
Read explained that eye exams are not performed at Warby Parker’s Buckhead store, but the staff can do distance measurements, which are critical to providing the correct lenses for customers.
“Most of our customers come into our stores with their eyeglasses prescriptions,” Read said. She also said the company does not refer people to specific eye doctors for examinations as a matter of policy.
Read explained that Warby Parker was launched in 2010 online and moved into operating its own stores and showrooms inside other stores because customers wanted the experience of seeing all the designs and physically picking them out and trying them on in a store atmosphere.
With the company’s online service, customers would go online and select five frame designs from the inventory. Warby Parker would then ship those frames to the customer’s home in a case and the customer would have
five days, free of charges, to select from the frames and return them.
The Buckhead Atlanta store opening all started when the Warby Parker Class Trip rolled through Atlanta in 2012. Read, who was one of the team members on that road trip in a school bus for 11 months to nine cities, recalled that the team fell in love with Atlanta and Buckhead. They found Buckhead Atlanta as the place to open their first Southeast store.
Although there has been no official announcement, the company plans to continue to expand its brick and mortar presence in additional cities, but BuckheazdView was told, “We don’t have a hard number of how many stores we’re planning to open.” The company presently has three stores in Manhattan, two in Los Angeles and one each in Dallas and Boston. It also has showrooms within other stores in several location, including Nashville, TN.
Why are books offered in the stores along with the company’s eyeglasses? First of all, the name Warby Parker comes from two characters in a journal by author Jack Kerouac. And, eyeglasses are used a lot for reading.
The books on tap and for sale in Warby Parker stores are all hand-picked selections from the company’s favorite independent presses, such as The Figures, McSweeney’s, New Directions and 33 1/3. And there also periodicals such as n+1 and The Believer to read.
Another different touch in the Warby Parker store is the photo booth, which provides an outside perspective on the appearance of the frames by cranking out a few pictures, which then can be shared via email with friends or family. The booth has three different whimsical backgrounds created by Brooklyn-based artist Wayne Pate can be selected. His art also is displayed elsewhere in the store.
Another Buckhead Atlanta First
While checking out the opened stores at Buckhead Atlanta on Friday (Sept. 26), BuckheadView noticed that the big video screen at the back of the Canali men’s clothing store was showing golf instead of fashion video.
Boutique Manager Bill Greenough explained that Canali is providing the apparel for the European team for the Ryder Cup golf championship, which began on Friday and concludes this Sunday. The American team’s apparel was designed by Ralph Lauren.
Incidentally, although traffic in the stores might be a little slow right now at Buckhead Atlanta, Greenough told BuckheadView he expects it to pick up a great deal when the restaurants start opening up, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 30—that being Shake Shack.