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A Novel Approach

This charming Rhode Island optical may be young but its owners draw on a wealth of experience in all things eyecare and eyewear.




The Novel Eye, North Kingstown, RI

OWNERS: Anthony and Kristen Rebello; URL:; FACEBOOK:; INSTAGRAM:; FOUNDED: 2022; AREA: 900 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Etnia Barcelona, Maui Jim, American Optical, State Optical, SALT., Blackfin, OGI, Article One, Caroline Abram, Todd Rogers, Shamir, Varilux, Crizal, Eyecloud Pro, Santinelli; EMPLOYEES: : 1 full-time

Anthony and Kristen Rebello

Anthony and Kristen Rebello

THE JOURNEYS OUR America’s Finest finalists take on the way to opening their outstanding businesses are all different, often taking several twists and turns before reaching their ultimate destination. And the path that led Anthony and Kristen Rebello to open The Novel Eye in the quaint, historic seaside village of Wickford in North Kingstown, RI, last year is a standout example of how dedication and a drive to never stop learning can lead to success — in their case culminating in the establishment of a proudly owner-operated, family-run business specializing in independent eyewear labels from the US, EU and Japan.

Licensed optician Anthony has been in the optical field since 2005, having started as a part-time lab technician with LensCrafters. After obtaining his optician’s license and spending almost nine years with the company, he moved on to Partners in Vision/Vision Associates, helping to manage optical dispensaries on behalf of OMD groups around the country. He left PIV/VA after seven years to work as a store leader/area leader with Warby Parker and after almost two years there, he and Kristen took the plunge, putting to use all the know-how they had accumulated to open The Novel Eye. “What started as a mere dream of opening an independent optical has quickly become a reality for my wife and I,” says Rebello. “We haven’t looked back since.”


The couple spent a lot of time looking for the perfect location — somewhere “highly visible, good foot traffic and not in a sterile, medical environment,” says Rebello, who describes Wickford Village as “a time capsule … Many of the structures and homes in the village have been in place since the late 1600s or early 1700s. Untouched Americana.” And what better business to operate in such a locale than an optical shop, says Rebello, pointing out that “opticianry can be traced back to the late 1700s to early 1800s.” The business got a “huge” and unexpected marketing boost when Wickford was named 2022’s “Best Historic Small Town” by USA Today just three weeks before it opened its doors.

The Novel Eye is housed within the Avis Block, a large brick structure built in 1850. The space has original hardwood floors, windows and hardware. “Our shelves are handmade and stained, to complement the hardwood flooring, and the decor is meant to make you feel like you are shopping within one’s home and not necessarily an optical shop.”

This Charming Rhode Island Optical Offers a Memorable Experience and Exquisite Eyecare in a Historic Setting

This Charming Rhode Island Optical Offers a Memorable Experience and Exquisite Eyecare in a Historic Setting

The shop’s floors are original pine from the 1850s.

Before patients actually do start to mistake the optical for their living room, however, they encounter the store’s exposed lab, right on the retail floor; it’s just one of the many details that combine to lend The Novel Eye its distinctive flair. Another is its memorable name, which was settled during a late-night brainstorming session. Anthony recounts that he and Kristen were “chatting one night and throwing out anything to see what stuck for a shop name. We came up with one that was killer, but after doing some digging, was already taken! Kristen then on the spot came up with ‘The Novel Eye.’ Our take on the word ‘novel’ comes from its adjective form — ‘of a new and unusual kind; different from anything seen or known before.’”

When it comes to eyewear, the couple’s philosophy is to work with independent labels who not only turn out unique and well-made products, but also have brand stories and identities that are easy to communicate to customers. Anthony cites Etnia Barcelona, SALT., Theo Eyewear, Blackfin, Maui Jim and Shamir as examples. He also shouts out Anagram’s out-of-network claim filing — “a fantastic product that keeps managed care customers focused on purchasing”— and Eyecloud Pro “for making a valuable and intuitive POS.”


The Rebellos handle all operational and financial tasks in-house themselves. “We want to be touching every aspect of our shop,” says Rebello, adding that the “family-owned” aspect of the practice is something they get a lot of love about from the community. The DIY ethos carries over to The Novel Eye’s website, Facebook and Instagram pages, which are all built in-house and managed by Anthony and Kristen themselves. “While we have some growing to do with effectiveness, we can confidently say that this has been the bulk of our advertising and marketing efforts to date.” And the effort has paid real dividends, he says. “We hear weekly of folks finding out about us on social media, through word of mouth or … our 5-star Google Reviews.”

The Novel Eye is the embodiment of all the best practices Rebello has absorbed throughout his optical career. He runs through a few: “Packaging lens offerings like Warby, finishing on-site like LensCrafters, access to major optical lens brands like private practice.” He acknowledges that as a new business there is still plenty to learn, “But our experiences to date have really helped to shape us for future operational and financial success.”

This Charming Rhode Island Optical Offers a Memorable Experience and Exquisite Eyecare in a Historic Setting

Five Cool Things About The Novel Eye

1. TREASURE UNDERFOOT. The shop’s floors are original pine from the 1850s.

2. SIGN O’ THE TIMES. The Novel Eye’s cedar and plywood storefront sign needed the OK from local authorities to ensure it used materials that existed in the 17th century, when Wickford was incorporated.

3. BRING YOUR BROOM. Wickford hosts an Annual Witches Parade during its “Wicked Week” leading up to Halloween. “Last year, over 400 participants dressed the part and brought both fear and silliness to the town. Over 5,000 people attended,” says Rebello.

4. IN PLAIN SIGHT. The finishing lab is on the retail floor. “We wanted our customers to see what it takes to make a pair of specs.”


5. PERFECT COMBO. The Novel Eye partnered with the Wickford Village Merchant’s Association for their first ever trunk show in October 2022 as part of a village-wide “Sip ’n Stroll” event. “We hosted customers after hours with SALT.,” recalls Rebello. “To sample wine from a local vineyard while shopping for eyewear! It ended up being our most successful day to date — close to $7,000 — in a few hours’ time.”


  • David Duralde, Chief Creative Officer, OGI Eyewear, Minneapolis, MN: From the masterful eye of an experienced optician and the passionate dedication to independent eyewear, the customer experience provided is top tier, yet feels friendly, down-to-earth and accessible. The Novel Eye is a celebration of what is right about connecting with an independent eyewear professional.
  • Jenn Denham, Head of Business Development, Review Wave, McKinney, TX: This power couple has hit the ground running. A finishing lab on the floor to keep patients engaged and exposed to the making of their glasses is a WOW factor. Bringing a historical building to life with a modern retail and optical experience is their recipe for success!
  • Paige Kraemer, ABOC, Sales Consultant, Minnesota, Cherry Optical Lab, Green Bay, WI: The historic aspect of the space and the city are very cool. It is such a unique idea to have the edger on the retail floor too!


Fine Story

Anthony Rebello has well-rounded experience as an optician and industry leader. Having worked higher-end corporate roles, in private practice, and with a major online/brick and mortar retailer, he has a keen sense of what drives purchasing habits, while consulting with Partners in Vision/ Vision Associates schooled him in managing profitability — something that has translated to his own business. He is also the president of the Opticians Association of Rhode Island and is working to incorporate an apprenticeship program for optician licensure in the state through legislative action.

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


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