Rick and Karin Andrews loved eyeglasses but hated buying them. Their frustrations started from a consumer’s perspective but quickly led to a business model and concept. Honest Eyes sells most of their frames at just $99. A complete pair of prescription glasses here can be as much as 30 to 50 percent less than what you’d find at a traditional optometry practice.
“We also go to smaller, independent manufacturers from all over the world such as the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the United States,” said Rick Andrews, co-owner, along with wife Karin, of Honest Eyes, a nontraditional optical store featuring around a thousand frames.
Karin Andrews is the style genius handling all the frame orders. Honest Eyes offers a selection of women’s, men’s and some children’s options. “Eyeglasses are a lot about the style you like but also the right fit—petite faces or larger heads and different facial features come into play so the glasses have to fit just right.”
The new store opened the first week in May and already has a novelty feature—the eyeglass bar. Like a pub, customers can sit at the bar and view the frame library and try on glasses and receive expert help finding the perfect frames and fit.
“We don’t want to be a typical optical shop. Come in and enjoy a cup of coffee and our comfortable chairs and spaces. We hope to offer a Ladies’ Night with sushi and wine and other fun events,” said Andrews.
Honest Eyes is different from normal optical retail and it comes down to one detail. Customers bring in their own prescription (the shop even offers to call your doctor and obtain the information for you). That simple process eliminates the high costs of a doctor’s exam, exam equipment and staffing. Because Honest does not perform eye exams nor handle contact lenses, the shop is free to focus on stylish frames that suit your lifestyle and facial features. Which begs the question: Does a person’s face shape really make a difference in selecting the right eyewear?
“It’s extremely important to understand,” said Andrews, citing the drawbacks of frames that are too wide for a face or negatives such as people’s cheeks coming in contact with the frame when they smile. Even people’s ears make a difference. “A very hands-on approach is the best way to go. We’ve noticed recent style trends for big, chunky and oversized frames especially in the younger generation, and what’s popular doesn’t always work with their face.”
Experimentation is key. Try on different shaped frames, select a few top choices, take pictures and send them to friends—the only magic formula is having personal attention, a wide selection and time to keep trying. Once you select your favorite frames and lenses, you meet at the store again in seven to ten business days for a proper fitting.
“We really love to work with customers on fun stuff,” said Andrews. “If eyeglasses are more affordable you can have more than one pair, like you have more than one pair of shoes. We think glasses are similar—have a serious pair for the office, a fun set for at night, a sporty pair. There’s no reason we shouldn’t think of it in those terms.”
Honest Eyes is located at 975 Cherry Street SE (corner building at Cherry St., Diamond Ave., and Lake Drive) in Grand Rapids. This will be the couple’s third store. Their other locations are in Traverse City and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.