KC startup scene attracts Warby Parker to open its first Kansas City store
Stepping into a Warby Parker store is like entering a modern version of a 1960’s style library. But instead of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling shelves of books, they are eye-wear frames. The dark walnut shelves, the kitschy wall-paper, the brass library lamps and books accompanying the glasses, the mid-century library design of the reference desk sign…
Stepping into a Warby Parker store is like entering a modern version of a 1960’s style library. But instead of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling shelves of books, they are eye-wear frames. The dark walnut shelves, the kitschy wall-paper, the brass library lamps and books accompanying the glasses, the mid-century library design of the reference desk sign and leather seating are fitting for a store that named itself after two characters from a Jack Kerouac story. It has a throw back feel to a time before the Internet and gives a different experience than just scrolling through their website to click on frames for purchase in our modern era.
The Kansas City store’s Grand Opening is this Saturday, Sept. 12th at 10 a.m. on the Country Club Plaza. Located at 307 Nichols Road, this marks the second store opening in the Midwest. Little Freshie will have free popsicles and sodas.
“We are excited about the Country Club Plaza,” Neil Blumenthal, Co-CEO and Co-Founder said. “I love the design of it, and it’s desire to innovate. We were drawn to Kansas City in general because of your guys’ tech and startup hub. It’s exciting to be a part in creating community.”
The grand opening will feature the release of the Percey frame in Oak Barrel with Sea Salt from their Basso Collection as a pair of sunglasses only available in limited quantities at the Plaza location. It is only the second time an exclusive frame has been created for a store opening.
“It’s something fun to celebrate,” Blumenthal said. “It’s a big deal to join a community, and the frames are inspired by the Plaza-it’s intricate tile work and Spanish-influenced structures.”
The store features an optometrist on staff for eye exams and the reference desk to assist in style advice, adjustments, etc. Everything at Warby Parker is developed in-house from the website, software and frame designs.
“We are more integrated than other brands and retailers,” Blumenthal said. “And we provide a fun and easy omnichannel experience.”
“We are very much a startup”
Founded in 2010 as an online retailer for affordable designer eye-wear, the company partners with non-profits such as VisionSpring to give a pair to someone in need with every purchase. They have donated over a million glasses. The partnered non-profits train men and women in developing countries to give basic eye exams and sell glasses to their communities at affordable prices. They are now partnering with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to distribute glasses to 20,000 school children in need.
“We are very much a startup,” Blumenthal said. “We are at the intersection of tech, fashion and the social world. Everything is looked at with fresh eyes, and [we are] constantly seeing how we can do things better. We see, learn and work. We create jobs and give people access to affordable and stylish frames.”
307 Nichols Road
Hours: Monday–Saturday (except for Thursday): 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–6 p.m.
Lynne Hermansen is a freelance writer living in Kansas City with years of journalism, marketing, social media, publishing and non-profit experience. She is a passionate children’s literacy and Parkinson’s advocate who can’t live without her bicycle, niece and Kitchenaid.
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