When we talk about “retail” in the optical world, we usually mean a dispensary or eye care practice that lives within a Walmart, Shopko, or Sam’s Club. But I recently came across a practice in a most unexpected retail space: a kind of hipster co-op.
Now you may not know what I mean by that term, and I don’t blame you–I just made it up. But how else can I describe this place? It’s one big warehouse building in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood that contains a letterpress card shop, a bowtie boutique, and a straight-razor shave joint, all of which are anchored by a coffee bar and roastery (James Coffee). Though these are individual stores, all the walls inside the building are glass, so the effect is more like open stalls in a market than separate shops.
And right there next to where you sit down to enjoy your honey cinnamon latte is Specs Optometry. Owned by optometrist Dr. Michelle Fitzpatrick (along with another larger location in South Park), this location has managed to display a bunch of independent frame lines in a way that is appealing and uncluttered–all in a space no larger than a living room.
Let me share with you what I think Specs is doing right, and maybe it will spark some ideas for you:
Instead of trying to lure patients to another part of town, or into another address on a popular street, Specs is right there inside the building where they get their daily coffee. Some people work there all day! They can fall in love with that Jacques Marie Mage Dorothy frame just by ogling it daily, and not use up a minute of the optician’s time.
More facetime with frames
I love eyeglasses and will spend as much on them as my wallet will allow, but sometimes it feels like I have to jump through too many hoops to even lay eyes on the frames in a dispensary–much less try on. There may be no window to display frames, or standing outdoors to look at them feels awkward. Or the dispensary may not be up front, and I have to run a gauntlet of insurance questions before I can even start trying on. It’s like they don’t want my money! And after a few hurdles, I no longer want to give it to them.
The experience at Specs was definitely different. I tried on so many frames, my heart sang.
And Specs lets you see everything through their glass walls even when they’re not open. That means MOSCOT, Barton Perreira, Andy Wolf, and Garrett Leight frames are winking at potential buyers up close and often. And when they are open, optician Kayla Gray is the soul of patience and respect for the gravity of your fashion choices.
Handcrafted interior, curated frame lines
The shop’s interior is full of handcrafted details–raw wood, welded metal, softly faded rugs–which fits right in with the aesthetic of its neighbor shops, and also matches the curated, handcrafted frame lines it sells.
The doctor is in
Even in this small space, they’ve tucked a little exam room in the back, so there’s no excuse for not getting a current prescription. And if more instruments are needed, such as a fundus camera, they can accommodate that in their other location.
Specs Optometry removes a lot of obstacles to buying that most practices don’t even realize are there. What obstacles can you remove in your shop?
If you’re in San Diego, visit Specs Optometry for yourself at 2355 India Street.
Peggy is the founder of The Social Eye, a social media agency for optical businesses. She led social media efforts at ZEISS Vision US for 4 years, and prior to that created digital marketing for the tech and music industries. She has far too many pairs of eyeglasses, but can always find room for one more.