The story of Warby Parker started in 2010 at Wharton, the business school of University of Pennsylvania. Since then, the word about Warby has spread across the country, from New York, Austin, Seattle and San Francisco to other major cities. Now, much to its fans’ delight, Warby Parker has settled down in San Diego. If you have never heard of Warby, you might have prematurely concluded that it is a person. The truth is, Warby Parker is a brand of prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses that recently opened its store at Westfield Shoppingtown UTC. “We’re in fine company among so many other like-minded retailers at University Town Center, where I spent a million afternoons as a kid. It’s always been a destination experience,” expressed his excitement Dave Gilboa, Warby Parker’s co-founder and co-CEO who grew up in San Diego.
|Warby Parker is known as a literary-based company. Indeed, literature is a leitmotif of the brand’s history and brand culture. The business itself is named after two Jack Kerouac characters — Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker. The story of the company also started like a novel — Dave Gilboa once went on a camping trip where he lost his glasses. That was when he realized that buying a new pair of frames (a vital accessory for many) every time you lose them was too expensive due to an eyewear-market monopoly. This understanding motivated him to come together with his fellow students to start an eyeglasses business within the Venture Initiation Program. Rooted in the simple desire to helping people read, Warby Parker rapidly grew into a prosperous brand with a $1.2 billion revenue. Sounds like an example from a “How to be a Successful Entrepreneur” book, doesn’t it?|
But literary analogies do not end here, since Warby Parker also sells curated collection of books from the company’s favorite independent publishers at its retail stores. UTC’s location currently features “The True Deceiver” (1982) by Swedish-Finnish author Tove Jansson, contemporary art journal “Paper Monument,” literary magazine “n+1” and other reads that customers can purchase together with or instead of glasses. In addition, books sorted by cover colors serve as decorations on minimalist shelves with frames. San Diegans will also find a custom mural of two people lying on a swimming mattress shaped as a book, created by Jean Jullien exclusively for the store.
While one can find Warby Parker’s history and aesthetic to be truly poetic, the brand got its reputation for being affordable, practical and sustainable. Many know Warby Parker for its unique home try-on service that allows customers to ship five frames to their door, try them on at home, then chose the glasses that best fit and send the other four pairs back. But as the company is extending its offline presence, San Diegans should take an advantage of having a retail location nearby. At the store, Warby Parker keeps it simple: when you come into the shop with your prescription, the store adviser will ask you questions to decide which frame would work best for you. Unlike the associates at the majority of multi-brand eyewear boutiques, Warby Parker advisers are not interested in pushing a certain brand line because it is more expensive. Lifestyle-oriented, they will make sure that your new glasses match your everyday life and, obviously, your face. Because someone should honestly tell you this cute frame does not work well with your oval face shape. The fact that all employees wear glasses themselves (big secret — some of them have plain lenses) only adds to the feeling of their professionalism.
After you choose your ideal frame — don’t forget to try on Robinson sunglasses, designed especially for San Diego — Warby Parker will send your order to be filled. Unless you are buying sunglasses that can be immediately picked up at the store, it usually takes seven to 10 business days to process a standard prescription glasses order. The company not only offers frames with standard lenses but also produces “progressive” lenses that combine multiple lens powers for all viewing distances, which allow a person to wear the same pair for reading, working on a computer and living a high-resolution life. You can also replace the glasses with the free “no questions asked” guarantee in case something feels wrong within the first 30 days.
However, what truly distinguishes Warby Parker from any other eyewear brand is that all services are available for lower prices. By avoiding intermediaries through designing, producing and selling its own glasses, it maintains the product’s’ affordability. Price policy seems to perfectly match the needs of San Diego population — students can purchase glasses for only $95, and wealthy members of La Jolla community can spend up to $395 on their customized Warby Parkers. In the end, the main goal of Warby Parker in San Diego is to do good for the most local glasses-wearers possible.
Before Warby Parker came to San Diego, loyal customers had to drive to Los Angeles to partake in the brand. Now that Warby Parker has successfully become a part of the UTC retail family, it has all the chances to win the hearts of San Diego community. In the end, we have already forgotten what used to be there before Warby Parker opened its doors.