When Paul Wilkes and his eye doctor dad, Stephen, decided to open an optical shop on a refurbished block of Oak Cliff’s emerging Tyler-Davis intersection, they had only one requirement: It shouldn’t look like a doctor’s office.
“The way we see it, going to the doctor shouldn’t be a run-of-the mill experience,” says Paul, co-owner of Glass Optical. “Eyewear and sunwear have the potential to be so exciting. Why shouldn’t your experience in the waiting room, in the exam room and then browsing for frames match that excitement?”
“We want to know where our products come from, how they are made and the passion that these designers put into each curve of the frames,” says Glass Optical co-owner Paul Wilkes.
Instead of brand-centric kiosks, polished concrete floors, brick walls with exposed plaster and warm wood display cases are backdrops for 10 independent labels of prescription eyewear, sunglasses and readers. The store is the exclusive Texas purveyor of three of the brands, Moscot, Massada and Sons + Daughters.
“We want to know where our products come from, how they are made and the passion that these designers put into each curve of the frames. We care about this because our customers have to wear these frames every single day,” Paul says.
A Chesterfield sofa from Restoration Hardware and midcentury leather chairs from Crate & Barrel create a lounge area in the back of the store. Art deco pendant lamps hang from an original pressed tin ceiling. Behind the counter is a quote in neon from The Great Gatsby: “But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.”
Paul acknowledges the quote is not the cheeriest, but it fits in an offbeat way. “It is a bit of an eerie and ominous quote, but when we were designing the space and had that large blank canvas wall to fill, it’s the first thing we thought up,” he says.
Glass Optical, located on a block of refurbished storefronts that are rapidly filling up with like-minded entrepreneurs, functions as a one-stop spec shop. The glasses are assembled in an onsite lab, and Paul’s optometrist father, Stephen, performs the exams. The elder Wilkes recently closed a 25-year practice in Pleasant Grove to start this venture with his son.
“My mom had passed away, and we decided to do something new together,” says Paul, who worked in advertising for 10 years. Paul’s wife, Megan, is co-owner of nearby Emporium Pies.
Glass Optical is a natural extension of the Brooklyn-meets-boots vibe of West Davis Street. Spinster Records opened this past weekend; in fact, it co-hosted a grand opening party with Glass Optical. Dallas Bike Works opened in late July, and Joy Macarons is opening a retail shop any day now. The new kids join longer-time residents CocoAndre Chocolatier, Rose Garden Remake and Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.
And what’s a new town square without an optical shop? Thanks to Glass Optical, we’ll never find out.