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Coastal Cool

With the help of some famous faces, this West Coast optical puts its own label front and center while making every client feel like a star.

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Alexander Daas Eyewear and Opticians, Del Mar, CA

OWNER: Alex Feldman; URL: alexanderdaas.com; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/alexanderdaas; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/alexanderdaas; TIKTOK: tiktok.com/@alexanderdaas; FOUNDED: 1979; Opened featured location: 2021; AREA: 500 sq. ft.; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Alex Feldman and wife Stephanie Shkolnik; TOP BRANDS: Alexander Daas, Barton Perreira, Blake Kuwahara, Celine, Lindberg; EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time, 1 part-time


RAISED IN AN optical environment, it seemed only natural that second-generation optician Alex Feldman would take over his parents’ San Francisco optical. But when the time came, it was more than just a simple change of management. Feldman had ideas of his own, and soon after assuming ownership he introduced a very specific store experience, one in which the opticians are trained to be stylists, creating a true crossover between medical and fashion.

By 2010, after years on the sales floor, Feldman had spotted a gap in the eyewear market and launched his new brand, Alexander Daas, with a focus on small PD options. As the label grew he knew it was time to expand. In 2013 he opened a shop in LA, and last year his success story continued to evolve with the opening of a new location, Alexander Daas Eyewear and Opticians, in San Diego’s beach town of Del Mar.

Alex Feldman

Alex Feldman

Just blocks from the beach, it targets a more affluent clientele who love quality and fashion, comprising both locals and global travelers who call the town a second home.

Planning for the location took shape during the uncertainty of the pandemic. “I took a risk and remodeled this new shop into a coastal beachy-feel experience, and officially launched the new Alexander Daas Opticians in December,” says Feldman.

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The shop features light wood, black accents, a black surfboard, and calming ocean photography, illuminated by natural light throughout. Plants create a warm earthy feel, and rattan-textured accents round out the cozy space. Pets are welcome. As soon as a client comes in, Feldman says, they are offered espresso and the experience begins.

Alexander Daas Eyewear & Opticians is just blocks from the beach in Del Mar, CA. Below, the city’s mayor (second from left) helps Alex Feldman (with scissors) and his wife Stephanie (right) open the location last year.

Alexander Daas Eyewear & Opticians is just blocks from the beach in Del Mar, CA. Below, the city’s mayor (second from left) helps Alex Feldman (with scissors) and his wife Stephanie (right) open the location last year.

Staff are trained to proactively style and educate customers. “We dedicate quality time to really explain the differences in frame quality, prescription types, and lens options,” he says. Each order is beautifully packaged in matte black, Alexander Daas-embossed bags, and topped off with fresh black tissue paper.

Adding to the vibe is the upbeat music with speakers outside for people walking by to hear. “Families walk by and kids start dancing on the sidewalk; it’s just fun.”

Feldman personally handles most of the design work for Alexander Daas. “At the time that I launched the line, large eyewear started trending. We happened to have a lot of small PD clients at our San Francisco location and I found myself constantly manipulating and reshaping frames to create better fits.” Alexander Daas was launched to create a quality selection for them, as well as to provide opticians with a fashionable brand that also serves as a tool to help them style such clients. The line was unveiled for family and friends at Feldman and his wife Stephanie’s wedding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with each guest being given a pair of sunglasses. “That was really special for me,” Feldman recalls. Since that intimate beginning, the brand has developed a following among the high-profile clientele Feldman cultivated at the L.A. store, including Michael Keaton, Jenny McCarthy and Sir Patrick Stewart.

And styling is just the start for his team: Working in an environment that combines wholesale, retail and ecommerce enables them to grow and learn new skill sets based on their interests. Another tool that helps Feldman keep on top of such a complicated business is Eyecloud Pro. “The ease of writing up and submitting orders as well as the detailed inventory system has been vital in our ability to operate multiple locations,” he says.

Alexander Daas frames line the shelves at Alexander Daas Eyewear & Opticians. At bottom, branded merchandise including the ‘Squinting is for assholes’ line.

Alexander Daas frames line the shelves at Alexander Daas Eyewear & Opticians. At bottom, branded merchandise including the ‘Squinting is for assholes’ line.

The starting point for Alexander Daas Eyewear and Opticians’ marketing is local engagement, which often entails working with other local businesses to spotlight interesting stories and cultivate relationships. Another key feature is bold, humorous messaging, such as its branded clothing collection displaying the phrase “Squinting is for assholes”™ in small print on everyday clothing, forcing people to squint to read it. In addition to hosting eyewear showcases to benefit a safety fund for jockeys at Del Mar’s world-famous horseracing events and partnering with local Parent Teacher Associations to style parents in eyewear with a portion of proceeds going back to the schools for children’s programs, Feldman has gotten creative by styling the valet team at a local hotel in Alexander Daas eyewear chains. “Yes, the valets are one of the most influential” groups around, says Feldman.

For him and his team at Alexander Daas Eyewear and Opticians, it all comes back to a simple formula: “Listening to what customers want and need, and mapping that against what’s happening in the local community.”

This California Optical Stands Out with Personal Styling and a Sought-After Private Label Collection

Five Cool Things About Alexander Daas Eyewear and Opticians

1. SOMETHING BREWING. The business styled the baristas and hosted giveaways for local women-owned business Kini Koffee, whose coffee creations went viral on TikTok.

2. CREATIVE CONTENT. During the early COVID period, the team produced content on TikTok on how to keep lenses from fogging up, and also infused art into their storytelling by showing a pair of Alexander Daas frames come to life through a photo painted in real-time.

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3. PERSONAL TOUCH. The team sends personal notes to check with customers they haven’t seen for a while, using the CRM to recall details about them and personalize the experience when they return.

4. TAKE A SHOT. In a recent marketing initiative, customers who purchased a prescription frame and lens received a complimentary bottle of Teremana Tequila.

5. BIG-WIG BLESSING. The mayor of Del Mar hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the store when it opened.

PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • A modern, laid-back coastal optical shop with a side of sincere “celebrity social proof” makes Alexander Daas the coolest kids on the beach. Overall, Alexander Daas looks to have mastered the ability to maintain grand scale brand awareness while maintaining local roots and providing an online optical shopping experience to boot. Bravo! — Jenn Denham, Director of Growth Marketing, Optify, Salt Lake City, UT:
  • By mapping customers’ needs and staying current on style trends and technology, this practice offers something special, which puts steam behind the messaging of “stay with an independent to stand out with more precisely fit and styled eyewear.” — David Duralde, Chief Creative Officer, OGI Eyewear, Minneapolis, MN:

 

Fine Story

Feldman strives to teach his kids the importance of leaning in to learn people’s struggles, and creating solutions for them. They’ve learned about business—and a whole lot more. “During the height of COVID,” he says, “they wanted to bring masks to the community and set up a modern-day lemonade (a.k.a. mask) stand … and created marketing materials with hilarious language touting ‘We take Venmo.’” More importantly, they saw how he and Stephanie positioned the company during COVID, keeping the team employed and the stores accessible to ensure locals were supported with services including free repairs and emergency lens replacements.

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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