While Warby Parker might be the essence of “hipster who wears glasses,” and even “Brooklyn hipster who wears glasses,” the at-first Internet-only retail startup that expanded into brick-and-mortars in 2013 didn’t have a single showroom in Kings County—until now. Well, until Saturday, that is, when the business, co-founded by Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, will open a location in Cobble Hill, their 31st, including three in Manhattan.
Yesterday we stopped by to make sure Warby Parker Brooklyn looked like what we hoped Warby Parker Brooklyn might look; you know, kind of understated yet artistic and literary—only effortlessly so—at the same time. So we walked over to 55 Bergen Street, just a couple doors down from the popular daytime hangout, 61 Local, and a short little shuffle from the Bergen G and F trains.
While the theme of every Warby Parker store is, more or less, “library meets eyewear retailer,” Warby Parker Brooklyn veers a little closer to “comic book store meets eyewear retailer.” So, for example, while the flagship location in SoHo comes with literature-stocked book shelves with rolling ladders attached and Terrazzo tile floors (the kind you see in classic fancy libraries), the Bergen Street location has wood floors carpentered into a chevron pattern and shelves filled with picture books, or, as Warby Parker describes it, books without words—graphic novels, illustrated stories, and sketchbooks, many of which you can buy and flip through intermittently while browsing handsome frames sold at relatively cheap prices. One example of the wordless book is 50 Ways To Lose Your Glasses—a concept even those with pretty good eyesight can identify with—published by Warby Parker and Hachette.
When we stopped by yesterday, an employee’s dog named Cheeseburger bounded over to say hello. Hung prominently on the wall to the left was a handsome piece of custom art by Brooklyn-based artist Shantell Martin. It’s an abstract line-drawing of the borough; in the center is scrawled, “One Day Someday Today We Can We Will We Could We Should Be More Make More See More.” [sic!] The effect is like if Pablo Picasso were to have rendered hipster Brooklyn during his Cubist phase.
That feature is repeated throughout the rest of the store: work from several New York and mostly Brooklyn-based artists is on view, or painted as murals—like the large depiction of Bergen Street and the Bergen Street store behind the store’s “reference desk” (which you might also identify as a checkout counter), by artist Pete Gamlen, and a second full-room work in the public restroom (yes, a public restroom! with a full-length mirror! unheard of!), by artist Jim Rugg. It’s in black and white, and you should make Instagrams with it.
Oh—sorry. For a minute I forgot this store is for selling eyewear. There is a lot of that on hand, too. Shelves line the long, open space, and are filled with dozens and dozens of niftily designed frames in hues that span the ROYGBIV. I am not really a glasses-wearer, though I do have one pair and a tiny prescription, only I don’t have a lot of experience trying on frames. But yesterday, I did, and here’s what I learned: I love myself a pair of emerald-green glasses—even ones in Egyptian blue—and especially in the design called the Bensen.
Even if you don’t have a need for prescription glasses, Warby Parker offers a sunglass line called the “Sun Collective,” and one of the designs is exclusive to the Bergen Street store: The Milton, which has round wire frames with light blue-tinted lenses. I picture, maybe, Carmen Sandiego keeping them in a discreet satchel.
It is the only product that disrupts Warby Parker’s philosophy that, regardless of location (online, or at any of its brick and mortars) you can find any frame anywhere. And that philosophy bleeds into the Reference desk (which, yes, does indeed double as a checkout counter): There you can bring a product purchased at any location for servicing, or return that product from any location within 30 days, or get answers to any Warby Parker eyewear-related question you might have.
Yesterday, the Bergen Street employees were bustling about the store, placing final touches—picture books, eyewear, postcards of all the art that hangs on the wall, reproduced in miniature, free for the taking. Someone was also drilling holes into the marble reference-counter where the computer would be attached. A busy time but, come Saturday—beside all that local art, those graphic compilations, and definitely that very attractive bathroom—you can step inside 55 Bergen, but be (more or less) inside any Warby Parker store in the country; though the excessive Cobble Hill charm and stroller-heavy sidewalks will remind you where you are the minute you step back outside.
Warby Parker Brooklyn: 55 Bergen Street, Cobble Hill