One nippy Tuesday morning, Oliver H. Gerry swung open a set of doors inside the Grand Avenue Temple in downtown Kansas City. It was January 23, 1912, and that unfurled entranceway symbolized the first day Gerry Optical was open for business. In the 100 years since, professionally trained technicians have prepared eyewear to complement the styles of countless clients, including President Harry Truman and Senator Nancy Kassebaum. Today, each of the store's nine locations carries between 800 and 1,200 frames from brands such as Calvin Klein, Ray-Ban, Prada, and BCBG, and the flagship store on 75th Street also houses its own grinding lab to quickly custom-craft lenses and fix cracks after cartoon eye-popping mishaps. To honor its deep community roots, Gerry Optical gives back by partnering with Lions Clubs International to provide discount eye exams and eyeglasses to underprivileged families.
The owners of The Swag Society, a group of fashion-conscious beauty and apparel stylists, send their expertise to clients in the mail once a month. They do so by asking clients to fill out a survey about their lifestyles, habits and hobbies, and occasions they find themselves dressing for. With that info, they put together a completely personalized box of products that includes make-up, jewelry, and other accessories, and send it out to the client.
While the first box's contents are immediately useful, they are more meant to help clients pursue a long-term strategy in which each box is a mini lesson plan in what styles and fashions flatter best. After a year, the team reports that most clients have a huge collection of make-up and accessories appropriate for most every occasion, with the possible exception of an alien invasion, since its impossible to predict what color flag our new overlords will fly.
With its showroom's contemporary setup and staff's personalized attention, Romanelli Optix diverges from the average optical center. Backed by more than 25 years of combined experience, Roman Beznovsky and Felix Milman opened the first Romanelli Optix in 2004. Today, the duo populates three Kansas City–area locations with frames in more than 60 brands such as Maui Jim, Tiffany & Co., and Fendi. At each location, customers are guided carefully through the options based on a variety of factors, including their prescriptions and facial features. Onsite adjustments make the process even easier, including meticulous custom-cut assembly performed in nearby boutiques.
Featuring a veritable fashion week of designer frames from Prada, D&G, CK, Armani Exchange, and more, as well as styles for children and inner-children from Nike, Disney, and Nickelodeon, In Vision converts playground and workplace shouts of “four-eyes!” into a fetching badge of pride. Led by doctors Heather Webster, and Lianne Innes, In Vision Eye Care Center offers an encyclopedic frame selection alongside all the services and expertise of an optometric practice, including a $50 eye exam for Groupon holders who need to freshen their prescriptions or simply want a professional diagnosis of their eye color. With today’s Groupon, spectacle-sporters can substantially defray the cost of their next set of frames (starting at $135) and lenses (starting at $75), leaving them with a spare set for the glove box or an emergency fire starter for the camping gear.
At Island Tan’s three locations, clients can achieve an all-over bronze through the sunless medium of their choice. The staffers at all three spaces aid customers in choosing one of five levels of UV-tanning beds—including high-pressure and standup beds—and the accompanying lotions best suited to their skin types. Some locations boast UV-free tanning options in Mystic Tan booths or airbrush spray-tanning stations that darken hides with Norvell solutions. They also book red-light therapy sessions, which are designed to fade stretch marks and reduce fine lines formed from trying to win staring contests with the sun.
Leon Butler opened Brookside Optical in 1989 with the vision that all clients, even those with hard-to-correct eyesight, could have access to stylish eyewear. Today, the shelves stock colorful frames ($100+) by small manufacturers and such designers as l.a. Eyeworks, Theo, and Anne et Valentin. Whether in retro cat-eye shapes or planted with futuristic jet packs, each pair of glasses is crafted by the on-site lab and ready to wear within days.