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.
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.
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.
To call The Body Shop a mere skin and body care store is to miss half of what makes it special. Late founder Dame Anita Roddick was a pioneer for ethical business practices; upon opening her first store in Brighton, England, in 1976, she developed company values such as "Defend Human Rights" and "Protect The Planet." She somehow balanced principles and profit, partnering in global campaigns with UNICEF, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and the United Nations, all while ultimately expanding her brand into 2,500 locations in over 60 international markets. After her death in 2007, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market. . . . She was an inspiration.”
Indeed, the Body Shop exhibits an eco-friendliness and social consciousness that's hard to come by in a company of its size. Its products have been fair-trade since 1987, and its Against Animal Testing movement led to an EU-wide ban of animal testing of cosmetics. The products are made from ingredients harvested from around the world: shea butter from Ghana goes into body scrubs and butters, and Indian artisans craft wooden massagers and tote bags that are screenprinted by hand. But all that isn't to say the company's production practices overshadow its final products. Skincare treatments such as the brand’s iconic body butters, facial products, and gift collections often appear in Allure, Marie Claire, Lucky, Seventeen and other national publications.
Since Dr. Stanley Pearle opened the doors to the first Pearle Vision in 1961, the franchise has expanded to more than 800 stores nationwide. In these stores, optometrists assess the ocular health of patients before onsite opticians help them navigate the assortment of frames from brands such as Versace, Ray-Ban, and DKNY. If they're not in the store, clients can utilize the Try-On tool, uploading a photo to see what they or their dog looks like in different types of glasses. Pearle Vision also helps focus the world with contacts from Acuvue and Biofinity.
Urban Beauty Supply stocks clients’ beauty cabinets with a bounty of popular and hard-to-find beauty products, including shampoos, styling tools, hair extensions, wigs, and makeup. Born from such product lines as Kinky-Curly, Bobbi Boss, and KeraCare, Urban Beauty’s merchandise aids in hair restoration, lengthening, and cleansing. Dread Head products help customers build their own knotted locks, while Curls products attract positive attention instead of negatively charged balloons with frizz-reducing organic ingredients and exotic oils.