EYES ON FREMONT SEATTLE, WA

BY JULIE FANSELOW

WEBSITE: eyesonfremont.com | OWNERS: Nate Ogura | OPENED : 1996 | AREA: 2,150 square feet | EMPLOYEES: 12 | TOP BRANDS: Eyes on Fremont, Kala, Roger Eye Design, NW77th | FACEBOOK: facebook.com/eyesonfremont

Eyes on Fremont’s motto is “Fight Evil” and its logo sports a punk rock-ransom note typeface. It’s true Eyes on Fremont is fiercely independent, yet there really isn’t much fierce about the place. A signature sandwich-board sign and beanbag-toss beckon passersby. Friendly staff members work under the gaze of a bespectacled giraffe, one of many original paintings around the office. Customer photos cover one wall, and posters promoting local events cover another. Stan Jonasson and Linda Jangaard opened their store on Oct. 31, 1996, so the business celebrates its anniversary every Halloween.

But all whimsy aside, Eyes on Fremont is serious about eyewear. Our judges liked the Seattle shop’s strong branding, well-curated selection and impressive growth, ranking the business tops in INVISION’s America’s Finest Optical Retailers contest.

Current owner Nate Ogura travels to Vision Expo East in spring and the Silmo show in Paris each fall, “and we walk up and down every aisle to find new lines that haven’t had a ton of exposure yet” — ideally eyewear that is both high fashion and an excellent value, since Eyes on Fremont strives for an average frame retail price of $200. Favorite finds include California-made Kala Eyewear, 141 Eyewear from Portland and Roger Eye Design from the Netherlands. With about 3,500 frames in stock (and 680 on its boards), Eyes on Fremont has something cool for every face.

Eyes on Fremont literally became its own brand in January with the launch of its own eyewear line offering complete single-vision pairs for $175. The models — available in three colors each — bear names honoring staff members or Seattle landmarks. (For example, the men’s model with a larger bridge is named the Troll, for a famous Seattle sculpture that’s, you guessed it, under a big bridge. See the frame and its story). The Eyes on Fremont line currently has 16 models; Ogura says it’ll top out at 32. Befitting Eyes on Fremont’s one-of-a-kind vibe, he has no plans to sell them anywhere else.

On busy days, Eyes on Fremont hums with an energy that can only come from passionate eyecare professionals who love what they do. “There are opticians who do glasses and then there are opticians who do glasses because they are into glasses,” Ogura says. “Our whole staff is the latter. People can tell if you’re into it or not, and we’re really into glasses.”



Eyes on Fremont’s “Fight Evil” motto is seen on everything from the store window to pins dispensed (for free) from a bubble gum-style vending machine near the reception desk.

2 The shop’s newly rented “dungeon” — a basement previously used for storage by the restaurant next door — doubled Eyes on Fremont’s square footage and relieved what had been very cramped quarters for a business that’s home to 11 opticians, an office coordinator, two ODs and their assistant, a finishing lab and a fledgling line of frames.

Eyes on Fremont is in a small, somewhat sleepy commercial area a mile north of Seattle’s bustling Fremont commercial district, making it more of a destination shop than something people stumble across on their weekend errands. Customers come from throughout Western Washington. 

The business markets mainly to young adults, with the knowledge that teens and 20-somethings often influence their parents’ fashion decisions. The $175 complete-pair price for Eyes on Fremont’s own line helps it compete with Internet vendors who can’t hope to match a local shop’s hands-on service.

Eyes on Fremont has a meeting each Saturday an hour before the shop opens. “We call it ‘The Agenda,’“ Ogura says. “I know it sounds simple and basic, but it has done wonders for keeping everybody on the same page on current topics within the store. It also gives everybody some time to take a deep breath and get ready for the busy Saturday to follow.”

FINE  POINT

Other than word of mouth, radio is Eyes on Fremont’s best advertising medium, with sponsorship spots running on two major local public radio stations plus print ads in two speciality magazines, City Arts and Edible Seattle. But its most unexpected media buy may be on C-89.5, a student-run station from Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School that’s a national powerhouse in dance music circles.

OUR JUDGES SAY

It makes me feel like a kid again. — Howard Purcell

Plain fun to work and shop! I would enjoy being on either end of this process here day in and day out. — Bob Hillman

Watch a video interview with Nate Ogura.

AMERICA'S FINEST 2014

1st Place Eyes on Fremont / 2nd Place Silver Lining Opticians / 3rd Place Modern Eye

Fine-alists Eye Gallery / Eye Impact / Georgetown Optician / Look + See Eye Care / Modern Eyes / Providence Optical / Sight Optical

Explore more of “America’s Finest” eyecare businesses in each and every issue of INVISION.

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