Warby Parker stormed the retail glasses industry in 2010 with a novel way to sell its affordable, stylish specs: online. Hundreds of thousands of sold pairs later, the boutique glasses purveyor is today opening the doors to its brick-and-mortar flagship store, at 121 Greene Street in NYC's SoHo neighborhood.
Warby Parker rapidly built a thriving e-commerce business through an innovative model that eschewed costly expenses, such as brand licensing fees, and sold product directly to consumers, allowing the company to sell glasses for as low as $95 a pair.
"We literally would invite people to come to the apartment and we’d lay the glasses on the dining room table," Blumenthal says. "We thought it was going to be this sub-optimal experience, and it ended up being something really special."
They eventually opened up a showroom in New York City and set up displays within several smaller boutique retailers across the country, including The Standard hotel chain's Los Angeles and Miami locations, where guests can visit Warby's kitschy, '60s-themed "Readery" kiosks.
But Blumenthal and Gilboa have sprinkled the flagship store with an extra dusting of retail magic, taking a few cues from their neighbor across Greene Street: the Apple Store.
"What I think Apple did tremendously well when they launched retail was not to focus on how to shove as many products into the footprint as possible," Gilboa says. "It was really focused around creating a magical experience." That's what we've tried to create here."
When you walk into 121 Greene, you'll find rolling library ladders, a photo booth, reading materials from Warby-approved independent presses, and mirrors upon mirrors, so you'll never have to travel far to peep a glance at your bespectacled self.
Blumenthal and Gilboa say the store is an early testament to where the retail industry is headed.
"The future of our business and all retail is going to have some online and some offline component," Gilboa says. "The world doesn’t have to be black and white."
[Photos by Joel Arbaje]