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VOL. 128 | NO. 131 | Monday, July 08, 2013

 

Eclectic Eye Renovation Aims to Keep Store Fresh

By JONATHAN DEVIN

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Fashion isn’t just about clothing, said the owners of Eclectic Eye, whose business caters to customers who enjoy several different looks in eyewear.

So with a nod to the fashion industry’s concept of keeping things fresh, lively and in tune with the current trends, Eclectic Eye is undergoing an extensive makeover of its popular Midtown store.

“We are very much a fashion business,” said Dr. Michael Weinberg, who owns the business with his wife, Robbie Johnson Weinberg. “You can’t just keep things the same for 20 years.”

The couple is investing about $200,000 in an interior renovation of their shop at 242 S. Cooper St., following the purchase of their building last October. The renovation is ongoing through the summer.

Dr. Michael Weinberg and his wife, Robbie Johnson Weinberg, are owners of Eclectic Eye in Midtown.  

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

Weinberg graduated from optometry school in 1996 and worked for other local optometrists before designing his own concept and opening Eclectic Eye. He was dismayed by the amount of one-hour shops dominating the market.

“That’s definitely the local market,” Weinberg said. “Optometry had become a factory environment. The one-hour places weren’t the only market. There’s a tremendous variety of independent optometrists in town.

“But I think it was about ease and speed. I think there’s a downgrading of service in general for that ease and convenience. People think it’s less expensive, but once you go in there, it could be more expensive.”

The couple are Midtowners, and they wanted to keep their store in Midtown, though real estate agents tried to move them farther east, because of the high-end nature of the business. They cited studies by the University of Memphis, which noted missed opportunities for business in Midtown.

Since they moved into their Midtown store, other high-end businesses like Cafe 1912 and Midtown Yoga have moved into nearby spaces.

When their lease was up last year, the couple approached property owner Jimmy Lewis about purchasing their building. In doing so, they gained the 1,800 square foot bay next door, which houses an insurance office, and the building’s parking lot.

The purchase allowed them to expand their external signage, which is now adorned with a simplified logo. They also officially dropped the word “the” from the company name.

Inside, the showroom is being repainted in a softer palette, new millwork is being added, and the stained concrete floor is being covered with an epoxy to make it easier on the staff’s feet.

The on-site lab in the back is also being remodeled.

Their Collierville store, which opened in 2006 in a leased space at 3670 S. Houston Levee Road, will remain largely the same for now, though the signage is improved.

Johnson Weinberg said that about 25 percent of their customers buy into the fashion concept, purchasing as many as 10 different frames to wear as accessories to their outfits. The majority of customers, she said, have at least three pairs of frames.

“I don’t wear the same shirt or jacket every day, so I don’t want to be confined to the same frames every day,” Johnson Weinberg said. “It’s art or jewelry for your face.”

Business flattened out a few years after opening, particularly during the recession, but Weinberg said they have never experienced a downward trend. Eclectic Eye has, however, become a destination business, drawing as many customers to their Midtown store from East Memphis ZIP codes as Midtown ZIP codes.

“What saved us is that we stayed consistent,” Weinberg said. “We didn’t panic. We didn’t change out business model.”

The renovation and refreshing of their logo is also timed with the resurgence of nearby Overton Square. Midtown businesses come back like vintage fashions, Weinberg said.

“If you have to wear glasses,” he said, “we don’t want them to just blend in.”

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