Online eyewear company Warby Parker opened a retail store in Georgetown on Sept. 26. The storefront, located at 3225 M St. NW, celebrated its launch by releasing an exclusive pair of sunglasses only available at its M Street location.
The storefront displays a variety of styles of eyeglasses for customers to try on. Once a customer selects a style of his choice, the company ships the prescription glasses to his home or workplace. The shop also offers same-day non-prescription eyewear service.
Company officials first considered the Georgetown area for a permanent location after the young company opened a Warby Parker Class Trip shop in Georgetown in 2012 and 2013 and fell in love with the area.
The inception of Warby Parker began after a group of four graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School became frustrated with soaring eyeglass prices. In response, the quartet decided to start a company of their own committed to low-price eyewear. Warby Parker glasses cost between $95 and $395.
When the company launched in 2010, it was solely an online enterprise. Demand for the company’s glasses grew quickly, though, and Warby Parker sold out of their top three styles in just a few weeks. The company was soon featured in Vogue and GQ.
In response to that demand, the founders opened up their apartment to customers in Philadelphia who requested to meet in person. The owners would spread out different frames on coffee tables and eventually realized the benefits of a physical retail presence.
When Warby Parker opened its first official office in New York City, it again committed table space to customers who phoned in wanting to try on glasses. Eventually, the company decided to open a pop-up shop in New York City for the holiday season and has grown its physical storefront presence since, with 16 stores across the country.
In the Georgetown storefront, Warby Parker designers aimed to match the interior design to the prevailing aesthetic in the local area. The original masonry on the front of the store has been preserved.
On top of selling books from the new Warby Parker Press and other independent publishers, the store features the work of different artists, including poster artist Jason Munn.
Margot McCloskey (COL ’18) became a fan of Warby Parker after she visited one of its stores in New York.
“When I first got my glasses, I went into the store in the meat packing district in New York City because my friend, who actually needed glasses, needed a new pair,” McCloskey said. “I tried on a bunch of different styles just for fun, but was immediately sold.”
The company also has a strong commitment to philanthropy — since Warby Parker launched in 2010, for every pair of glasses sold, the company distributes a pair to those in need through its nonprofit, Vision Spring.
Co-founder Neil Blumenthal expressed his business philosophy to online blog Live in the Grey in January 2013.
“Creating an artificial distinction between ‘work’ and ‘life’ has never done the trick for me,” said Blumenthal in his interview with the blog.
“It’s a boundary that I associate more with 1950s sitcoms than with today’s work environment. Because we spend most of our lives working, it’s so important that your work be your life’s passion. When that’s the case, there’s no need to institute a separation.”
While Warby Parker hasrapidly increased its storefront presence, it continues to be online-focused.
But for McCloskey, Warby Parker’s decision to open a storefront in Georgetown is more than welcome.
“I’m so excited about Warby coming to Georgetown,” McCloskey said. “I actually don’t even need glasses, but I see them as a fashion statement. I invest in glasses like other people might invest in necklaces.”
Warby Parker plans to follow up its Georgetown opening with another store location in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest D.C.
Correction: This article previously stated that Warby Parker operated 21 stores. The eyeglass retailer operates 16 stores.
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