Black Optical, a passionate and curated eyewear retailer that has built a reputation as tastemaker in eyewear whose identity is deeply rooted in building community around its founding belief that great design can exist anywhere.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2007, Black Optical established itself as a leading curator in its rapidly growing community. Gary grew his vision to include two other successful locations, in Oklahoma City and Dallas. From the beginning, Black Optical set out to achieve three things: to curate and retail the best eyewear in the world, to welcome and care for every client like a friend, and to create aesthetic environments that inspire.
As a tastemaker, Black Optical has collaborated with several leading designers including New Orleans based Krewe, LA based Jacques Marie Mage and accessory brands Miansai and Makr in 2018. Black Optical strives to humanize the digital experience by integrating its showroom teams with its POS and webstore through targeted email marketing and personalized shopping. Black Optical has effectively built sustainable streams of revenue and reliable and reliable relationships using a shop-able Instagram feed that continues to drive clients in store.
When we sat down to talk about G is for Glasses for this contest we realized how our vision, individuality, culture, technology use and brand loyalty all blend together to make our shop what it is. Creating a culture was part of our original vision of G, our individuality was the catalyst which set our culture and brand loyalty into motion. Technology helped establish our business from the very beginning, and is constantly evolving as we grow.
G is for Glasses was conceived much like most pregnancies, over a bottle of Chardonnay, a thrilling game of Scrabble and a need for a change in our lives. With Jessie’s background of optometry and Bonni’s background of retail and visual merchandising, opening an optical shop felt very natural. G is for Glasses is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, which you could say is located in the heart of the continent. We are very passionate Winnipeggers and felt there was huge opportunity in our city to do something different with optical. Coming up with a game plan for G involved researching tons of optical shops in North America and we felt this instant connection to those places that took an anti-corporation stance. The more we educated ourselves with the optical industry the more inspired we became and we knew we wanted nothing to do with the large umbrella companies that have dominated in this field, this determined the backbone in our vision. We are family (cousins!), we live in the same neighbourhood as our shop, and we are a small business. Making sure we sell product that reflects who we are as individuals is super important to the integrity of G.
We select our frame brands first and foremost on them being independent. Design, engineering and quality are also extremely important, as well as having a personal connection to the brand itself. There is a strict no-Luxottica policy in our shop. We extend these same beliefs into the selection of lenses we offer to our patients and are very proud that the finished pair of glasses we sell are truly independent.
In 5 years of business we have grown a culture of eyewear fanatics within our little Winnipeg. There is nothing more exciting than having a client become passionate about building their optical wardrobe. This helps us constantly evolve what brands we carry to make sure they always have somewhere new to go with their look the next time they are in the market for new frames. We take time to educate people on the brand they are buying. Hearing stories from the frame designers of how a frame came to be is one of our favourite things. We create connections to brands with our clients by sharing these stories. Our success depends on cultivating loyalty and trust with whoever walks in our doors, and providing them with amazing customer service along with great product. This allows our clients and patients to feel connected with the whole G team. We still have our original two staff members who have been with us since day one, Ken and Kelsey, which we feel speaks volumes to the family vibe we have created. Keeping it personal is a strong theme here.
The GLOBE SPECS’ third store is now in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto. The commercial building facility is part of the first ACE HOTEL in Asia. Since we were invited to take part in an extremely elegant 100 years old brick building (the former telephone company building built in 1920’s) and also as to seek for the way of blend the new store into the historical city of Kyoto, I had explored and hunted for various antique furniture, components and furnishings which are made in the same era as the facility building from all around the world.
Iron columns supporting the bronze canopy, huge type setting table and vintage parquet floor wood are all from England, made around 1920’s. 2 huge wooden tables were formally used at Banque de France in 1920’s, and customer consulting counter table is also from the same bank but from a little older era. Vintage chandeliers are from Czechs, heavy iron door from old Japanese warehouse, old wooden showcase and mirror is from Japan, all from the same period as well. In order as to cherish the charm of all of above antiques, variety of decorative materials are also from the same period. Those are such as old optical store signs, very early stage lensometer, test lens set and various technical drawings.
This whole mix of antique furnishing from all around the world had succeeded to create unrivaled unique atmosphere, providing the shopping environment that no one has never seen anywhere in the world. It is somewhat like learning experience at the optical museum, but one may also be struck with excitement of having entered unexpected space filled with elements of art, culture and fashion.
This special effect of art, culture and fashion is also being created by 2 artists, who are both the customer of GLOBE SPECS who have the best knowledge of our brand image.
Shohei Takasaki recently returned back from Portland Oregon US is an abstract artist of oil painting. 2 of his art works are decorated on the left wall, brightening and energizing the whole store.
Mr. Hinai of Nuts Art Works’ great sign artwork is decorated on the right wall as well as the sign art on the entrance doors.
Since Kyoto is historical and cultural but also being the town where many creators and artists find best place to make their challenges and accomplish their artworks, we also discovered it is probably the best city in the world to make our new store challenge. One other factor that made me determine to open the new store is for the fact that Kyoto being most international city in Japan. All these factors are the must elements for opening our new store. Thus GLOBE SPECS Kyoto is aiming to create a space for unique shopping experience that one cannot discover other than in our new Kyoto store.
VISION: What innovations are you implementing and why?
We are developing and implementing appointment based services, a membership program and building an on-line experience that best reflects in in-store experience we offer. It allows us to better service our remote clients as well as make our services available beyond our brick and mortar location.
INDIVIDUALITY: What does being an independent retailer mean for your business?
It’s our DNA. We wanted to transform the client experience from projection to discovery and recognition. No more assuming who someone is, their taste, or look or inclination, we created a space and a dialogue to discover our client and allow them the space to discover independent eyewear and the connection between the designers vision and their own. The vision from our first days in 2008 was to be the shortest, clearest conduit between wearer and designer. That’s why we’ve never carried a licensed brand. Too many decision are made by too many people that change the designers vision to satisfy a market. We keep the channels are pure as possible. We’ve pioneered brand such as Jacques Marie Mage, Sabine Be, Bruno Chaussignand, Kuboraum, Masahiro Marayuma, Ahlem, Rigards, all of which we were their first store in the US. We introduce the brand to our clientele. We take the risk, dive deep and share their stories with robust inventories and unparalleled product knowledge. We grow together.
CULTURE: Describe your business manifesto.
We’ve created space for you to discover how you want to define yourself in the context of eyewear.
We celebrate you and your choices. We teach without being too preach-y. By only representing independent and handmade brands with heritage and craft we focus on what we value. We don’t comprise or cut corners. There are no short cuts. We have a variable encyclopedia of frames which you define yourself however you fancy. We encourage wardrobing eyewear for the client to have the freedom of expression no matter the occasion. By edging and customizing in-house we’re able to further create on of a kind expressions for our clients.
BRAND LOYALTY: How are you building loyalty among your customers? What makes these relationships lasting ones?
We are our clients and our clients are us. Every compliment they receive takes them back to their experience with us. We’re a conduit for conversation and a connection in the community amongst like minded individuals.
TECHNOLOGY: How does your store utilize cutting edge technology? How has this improved your business?
Once a branding professor and elite in the branding business told me, a brand is a promise. An agreement that the expectation you set will be met and experienced by your client. The word authentic has been become a buzz word, but at its purest, authenticity is what we as humans respond to. Authenticity is at our core and our clients feel it. We don’t sell them the idea, we are who we are. I learned long ago that I’m most comfortable being myself with people who are comfortable with who they are. It set me free and in turn sets our clients free. Employees are encouraged and nurtured to be expressive and the best versions of themselves. Dress code is as simple as it must be tasteful and evoke your personal style.
Back in 2008 we started with tumblr as our “social media” communication. We created a 2 hashtags. #frameoftheday #faceoftheday now there over 12k frame of the day postings + almost a million for face of the day, which has been adopted by many industries and both have become an industry standard to showcase favorite frames and faces. As we migrated to Instagram in 2012 we also transitioned to #framedbygogosha and #framedby*nameofoptician to focus on our own fittings.
The Eye Place aims to be a little different. Brainchild of third-generation Optometrist Alex Kemp, the business was established in 2006 but has a heritage that goes much further back. The first store that Alex took on from its retiring owner in Bakewell, Derbyshire was in a direct line of opticians going back to 1720. The Fleet Street branch in the heart of historic London has served City journalists and barristers since 1912. With the weight of this heritage on his shoulders, Alex strives to build on tradition by merging the best of the old world quality and craftsmanship with innovative new ideas and equipment.
With constantly evolving practice management software, investment in the latest test room equipment and frame suppliers carefully selected for their quality and originality, The Eye Place is served by a cadre of loyal, experienced staff. The interior design evokes the warmth and weight of the company's unique history, using specimen cabinets re-purposed from a Victorian museum and reclaimed flooring from an old Yorkshire police station.
When it comes to frame selection, The Eye Place specializes in the unique. We work with craftsmen to supply a variety of wood, horn and precious metal frames. Along with our specialist acetate and titanium suppliers we offer 3D-printed nylon and titanium frames for those who seek the latest in high tech eye-wear. We specialize in bespoke frames to ensure we provide not only the perfect fit but also the exact look each customer desires. Whether you're the professor looking for a wooden frame with a rainbow pattern, or a barrister who wants a copy of grandfather's readers made in buffalo horn, we endeavor to delight.
Our examinations are performed using the most up to date technology including Optomap and OCT scans providing clinical excellence. At The Eye Place we want to ensure that our clients with dry eye issues are also managed to the highest standard, so Alex worked to create his 'EyeGienist' clinic. Our trademarked clinic's specialists investigate the cause of any issues with dryness, and explain it to the client, advise the best way to manage the condition and offer support and additional treatment where required.
London is seen as one of the top handful of truly international cities. Recognizing this, in December we began a partnership with a Chinese blogger who regularly promotes our brand on Chinese social media platforms used by visitors and by the Chinese community in London alike. This has driven tourists, ex pat Asians, students and their families who are attending UK schools and universities into our practice. As we evaluate this innovation we will be looking to see about expanding the idea in other languages/communities.
Whether supplying our customers who have attended the practice for decades, new local workers, tourists or our targeted internationals, The Eye Place strives to ensure quality from the first point of contact through our entire relationship by ensuring our clinical side is top rate and our offering in regard to frame and lenses is unparalleled- all served with warmth in a beautiful, unique setting.