This past November, Detroit welcomed a new addition to the historic Woodward Avenue: Warby Parker (WP), an in-house designer of high-quality and fashionable eyewear at an affordable price.
Their business model boasts a unique at-home try-on option; a try before you buy-type system that allows you to select five frames to test out for five days, with free shipping included. The customer can then purchase the perfect pair online.
However, the most unique aspect of the company is their concept of “buy a pair, give a pair,” with every purchase equating a donation to their nonprofit partners, who train men and women in developing countries to give basic eye exams.
According to their website, Warby Parker has “distributed over two million pairs of glasses to people in need.”
The fashionable frames start at $95 for prescription eyewear. By “cutting out the middleman,” suggests the website, WP designs and produces their own eyewear, selling the glasses wholesale.
In store, you’re able to get an eye exam on site, with measurements and adjustments available by request.
The Warby Parker store is everything you would expect from a high-end Woodward retailer: clean cut and minimalistic, with geometric architecture and interior design. The floors sport a grey and white terrazzo design, echoing the architecture and aesthetic of the space. A 16-foot domed ceiling crowns the store, with suspended globe lighting and brass detailing.
Artwork by Detroit artist David Rubello is displayed just above the reference desk, creating a stained glass design donned in blue.
The store is designed to mirror a library-like atmosphere, with glasses on the shelves along with a curated selection of books. The glasses themselves are named after novel characters, such as Oliver, Edgar, and Zelda.
Speaking of books, Warby Parker, is quick to recommend a selection of company favorites like Jack Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums.” According to the website, newly initiated employees receive a copy their first day.
The name Warby Parker was concocted in May 2009, as co-founder Dave Gilboa stumbled into a Jack Kerouac exhibition at the New York Public Library, displaying manuscripts, drafts and journals of the author. In one of the journals, two characters by the names of Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker caught Gilboa’s attention, combining the two to make “Warby Parker.”
The store is sandwiched between the Woodhouse Day Spa and Kit & Ace, resting on the former site of the pharmacy of James Vernor, the creator of the famous Detroit beverage, Vernor’s. In fact, the store serves up Vernor’s Ginger Ale alongside their fashionable frames and accessories.
“We’re excited to open up shop in a great American city with so much history. The youthful creative energy and innovation in Detroit is truly special. And of course we’re finally realizing our childhood dream of being able to drink soda at all hours without supervisions, thanks to Michigan’s favorite – Vernor’s Soda,” says Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker co-CEO and co-founder.
Do the fabulous frames catch your eye? Stop by Warby Parker, open 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Monday – Saturday and 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Sundays.