Florida eyewear innovator revitalizes a key location
BY JULIA CHANCE
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 edition of INVISION.
When Edward Beiner went into business more than 30 years ago, he wanted to infuse some excitement into an optical industry that was a little “sleepy” at the time, particularly for high-end eyewear. A dozen stores later, he’s proven that well-curated luxury and ongoing innovation can help independent eyecare professionals win amid big-chain and online competition.
The problem in the late 1970s and 1980s, Beiner recalls, was that few players knew how to serve the emerging luxury niche market, “from the way products were manufactured to the way they were distributed.” The lethargy extended to most practices and optical shops of the era: They were clinical and uninviting, and customers rarely even received a case with their prescription eyewear.
Beiner thought the time was ripe for creating an elegant environment for luxury frames.
“It was a no-brainer,” he says. “I felt that if I designed a store that was properly lit and decorated, with the right products and customer service, it could be a successful endeavor.” Inspired by the fine jewelry store that his family owned in Puerto Rico, the Brazilian-born Beiner opened his first shop in South Miami in 1981. His instincts proved correct, and he now has 12 stores throughout Florida.
The store attracted many people who worked and lived in the area, sometimes called the Manhattan of the South, and its design reflected that energy. “It was serious,” Beiner recalls. “It had dark wood, and we had a television monitor that was running stock market information throughout the day. The whole idea was to cater to young professionals.” And at a mere 700 square feet, the store was considerably smaller than it is today.
Miami’s demographics continued to shift. “There was no doubt that a changing of the guard was occurring,” Beiner says. “Older people were retiring, and younger people started entering the workforce with a lifestyle that was slightly different.” So when an adjacent retail space became available at Brickell, he grabbed it, doubled the existing store’s size, and gave it a new look.
To stay within budget, Blitstein incorporated some of the store’s original features. “We left the bones of it, the mechanical system and some of the lighting, but we changed the feeling of the store,” he says. The extra square footage, along with new white porcelain flooring and existing street level windows, allowed Blitstein to make the space brighter and more open. Glass display units that line the store’s perimeter neatly showcase the frames in stock. Dark wood cabinetry is still a feature, but it’s more subtle in the new design.
Comfortable seating was a must, since, Beiner says, “I wanted customers to to feel as though they were in their living room.” The center of the store accomplishes that goal nicely, with a chic leather chaise, coordinating leather and chrome chairs and a glass coffee table where clients can relax while waiting for services. Freestanding eyeglass cases for browsing are nearby.
The idea is flexibility, says Ian Bush, Edward Beiner’s director of branding and store development. “Everyone has different comfort levels,” he adds. People can still be waited on at the main counter, but two large parsons tables with chairs in the back of the store offer less formal options.
Like all Edward Beiner stores, the Brickell location carries popular luxe brands as well as Beiner’s eponymous collection of prescription glasses and shades. Prices range from $140 to $1,000. On average, locations have about 1,000 to 1,100 frames in stock, with no fewer than 25 from any line.
“At the end of the day, we’re selling fashion and lifestyle,” Beiner says, which is why updating this particular store was so important. “A store that appears dated will convey that you are not up to date.” And that’s never good for business.
2. Partners in Prime: The store teamed with Fiat North Miami and nearby Toscano Divino to launch the Edward Beiner eyewear 2012 spring/summer collection. More than 100 attendees got to see the new styles, as well as a Fiat 500 by Gucci model parked outside, while enjoying Italian nibbles and cocktails by liquor brand Zignum Mezcal. A highlight was a raffle where one lucky winner got to test drive the luxury automobile for a weekend.
3. Surround Sound: Cool ambient music is part of the Brickell experience. Local DJs take to the turntables for special events, and streaming specialists Mood Media provide everyday playlists to match various times of day. (The shop is open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.)
4. Continuing Ed: “We spend a lot of time on education for our staff,” Beiner says. To keep on top of the latest trends in the eyewear business, they attend product launches, trade shows and seminars. He also brings in brand reps so team members can learn more “about the products we carry and know the story behind them.”
5. Testing, testing ... In addition to new product launches and trunk shows, the store sometimes holds test events to gauge the response to new products. When star makeup artist Bobbi Brown launched her eyewear collection with Sàfilo, customers got to view and try on styles, receive free makeovers and cosmetic tips for eyeglass wearers.
F I N E S T O R Y
➤ Ever the innovator, Edward Beiner recently launched Ottica Su Misura, a bespoke line of eyewear. A design consultant works with customers to select shapes, colors and materials for glasses that will reflect their personal style. Decorative monograms and applications can be added, too. The designs are sent to an atelier manufacturer in Italy, and people get their eyewear within four to six weeks. The cost is about $800 for a one-of-a-kind frame.