Glasses, whether helping the eyes to see or protecting them from the sun, are the focal point of Warby Parker’s new store in Harbor East. Books, however, are just as much a part of the spectacle.
The store, which opened its doors on Wednesday, is inside a 1,000 sq. ft. space at 807 Aliceanna St. New York-based Warby Parker started by selling glasses online and shipping multiple pairs to try on, but has since moved into brick and mortar retail showrooms and retail stores across the country. The new store is the first physical presence in Maryland, though they have locations in DC. In addition to shopping for eyeglasses, they plan to begin giving eye exams in-house so shoppers can also make sure their prescriptions are up-to-date.
Along with e-commerce, Warby Parker got famous style-wise with a distinct take on the tortoise shell glasses that show no signs of going away. Standing inside the store, it’s also clear that the company has branched out to include those who have great eyesight (lucky!) or opt not to wear glasses all the time. Sunglasses make up a sizable portion of the inventory on display, and with summer upon us Warby Parker is offering a model called the Jackson exclusively in Baltimore, for now.
The other element of the business that stands out when visiting the store is the bookish streak. The company name comes from a pair of Kerouac characters, which, like most literary references, you’d have to know to make the connection. But the store’s design makes it clear that they’re fans of the written word. The whole place is modeled on a library, complete with terrazzo floors and “Reference Desk” in the rear. Walking in to the left, there’s a reading nook wrapped in “Reading Positions” wallpaper. Books themselves surround the “stacks” of glasses, with the rainbow colored selections above for display only, and the newer titles below for sale. Even the tablet-based inventory/checkout system has a literary reference. It’s named Point of Everything, or POE. Along with the fact that they already had a lot of online customers here, the literary history of The City That Reads was also big reason Warby Parker wanted to move here.
The store’s most distinctive Baltimore touch is found behind all the way in the back, where a large work by illustrator Otto Steininger (of New Yorker fame) depicts Harbor East in all of its boat, bike and treadmill glory.
The store is open to foot traffic now, and grand opening activities are planned on April 30.
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