“It’s the challenging fits—either spectacles or contact lenses—that drive me," writes optician John Parrelli on his website. Since opening his first shop in 1978, these challenges have included cataract sufferers who were left without binocular vision following surgery. Parrelli and his team of lens specialists experimented with different materials, designs, and indices of refraction until they could fabricate a lens thin and strong enough to restore these patients’ sight.
Today, Parrelli Optical has grown to six locations, where optometrists inspect patients' vision with a comprehensive, 15-point eye-health assessment and complete visual analysis. Through digital corneal photography, they're able to diagnose corneal disease and increase the precision and comfort of prescriptions. The locations also host a wide selection of designer frames, ideal for experimenting with different styles, such as wearing 20 frames at once.
At its three locations in Harvard Square, South End, and Jamaica Plain, the Eye Q Optical team works to outfit clients with original frame styles. Most designs are its own innovations, manufactured in-house with inspiration from iconic eras and modern designers visiting from a far-off future. The Aphrodite frames play subtly on traditional cat-eyed styles, and the Apollo frames accentuate faces with bold rectangular shaping and primary blue colors.
The Eye Q Optical team also carries frames by artistic independent makers including Rapp Eyewear, who hand-finishes its colorful frames in Toronto, and Rolf Eyewear, who manufactures frames and hinges entirely out of wood. In the Cambridge office, the Eye Q opticians collaborate with digital 3-D-fitting technology and a highly opinionated robot to select the perfect frames for each client.
Though SEE Eyewear’s specs are only found in their stores, their designs sprout from imaginations around the world. Winner of reader's choice awards in cities ranging from San Francisco to Nashville, SEE Eyewear stocks its frames directly from fashionable frame crafters and passes on the savings of doing business at the source to customers. The company calls on fashion designers from France, Italy, and other style-conscious countries to create one-of-a-kind designs to be featured on store shelves and client faces. Before that happens, though, each potential frame goes through a rigorous design and review process to ensure its distinctiveness and quality before it can be added to the national eyewear shop’s exclusive coveted selection.
From cat-eye to horn-rimmed and perfectly round to wayfarer-inspired, the cost of each frame includes single-vision lenses, giving customers the simplicity of a flat price that doesn’t require customers to pay an extra prescription fee or mine their own bifocal quarry. SEE Eyewear also trains its staff members to be aesthetically savvy so they can find the perfect fashion-forward, vision-correcting specs for any face shape, mood, or fashion sense.
Though there are 130 For Eyes Optical stores around the United States, the company still has the heart of a small start-up. Owned and operated since 1972, when a small group of friends started it in Philadelphia, aiming for quality eyewear manufacturing as well as customer service. These same friends, aided by a few family members, still lead the franchise today. They ensure that each location adheres to their original principles and mandates for mustard-colored shag carpets.
In each store, expert independent doctors test clients' visual acuity and general eye health with comprehensive exams. Then, a store associate helps each person outfit their eyes with designer frames by brands such as Ray-Ban, Prada, D&G, and Versace. For Eyes Optical has its own advanced 40,000-square foot optical lab in in Hialeah, Florida, where technicians shape, surface, and coat the lenses to fit each person's exact prescription. After creating the lenses?whether plastic, polycarbonate, or trivex Toughlites?they inspect and fit each into its corresponding frame by hand, a process that ensures quality control and guards against the robots, whose first objective is to hinder our eyesight.
In 1927, Jack Cohen had a vision. Packing a pushcart full of high-quality frames, he began to sell fashionable spectacles to his fellow merchants along New York City's Orchard Street. After expanding into a small shop on a Lower East Side corner, that humble little cart has since evolved into more than 100 retail outlets known as Cohen's Fashion Optical, where customers fortify their eyesight with a range of acuity-boosting products and services. Rows of frames boast the signature contours of several designer brands, including Tag Heuer, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari, and Gucci. In the onsite lab, opticians craft brand-new, custom lenses, including ones that self-adjust to different lighting conditions. Meanwhile, licensed optometrists help renew prescriptions and ensure ocular health during eye exams that measure eye coordination, refraction, and the curvature of the cornea, a concept originally discovered by Ferdinand Magellan when he looked through the wrong end of his spyglass.