By Lauren Taylor • Photographs by DAN D’ERRICO
While walking down Madison Avenue in midtown
New York, it’s hard not to notice the
small window of A.R. Trapp. The full display of
red women’s eyewear and men’s P3 shapes is
difficult to pass by without stopping. The
unique plastic frames are a signature of the
store, which caters more to men than to
women, especially the attorneys, accountants,
doctors and architects that work nearby. The
tiny store with three dispensing tables and one
counter may noy occupy much real estate, but
the historic shop is frequented by celebrities
and local customers looking for unique frames
and personal, one-on-one service.
A.R. Trapp Opticians was bought from its previous
owners in 1969 by a newly licensed optician
named Andrew Janedis, who is now the president.
Since then, the store has become known
worldwide for its vintage and vintage-inspired
frames. They specialize in thick, handmade P3
and vintage shapes for men, like styles worn
by music legend Buddy Holly and wizardkid
Harry Potter. The attention-grabbing
frames speak loudly for themselves; Janedis
has never had to worry about advertising.
“We are working on a web site,” he admits.
“But we rely mostly on word-of-mouth.”
Customers come from as far away as
Europe for the plastic P3 frames, with tortoise
being the top-selling color for men.
Even director Spike Lee bought five in various
colors. New York architect Philip
Johnson was famous in the 1960s and ’70s
for wearing them in black.
And although the clientele is 60/40 in favor
of men, women can find plenty to love at
A.R. Trapp, especially in red.
“We put out the display of red frames for
Valentine’s Day about three years ago,” says
Janedis. “They were so popular we still
haven’t taken them down.” The display predominantly
features red eyewear of various
shapes, sizes and materials, some more practical
than others. Red is the top-selling color
for women, says Janedis.
Most of the frames sold at A.R. Trapp are
the store’s own handmade self-named line,
but other brands fuel the mix, including
Anglo-American, Calvin Klein, l.a. eyeworks
and Ray-Ban. “Polo Ralph Lauren is our topselling
designer,” notes Janedis.
Customers can also bring in old broken
frames and photographs to take advantage
of the custom-made frame service offered
by the store. The visual guides given by the
customer are then sent to an affiliate of A.R.
Trapp in England, where they are made
into a reality. The process takes about four
weeks and starts at $395 a pair, and has
resulted in many satisfied customers.
If new interpretations of vintage frames
just aren’t cutting it, customers can take a
look at the “vintage corner,” as Janedis calls
it. Indeed, it is in the back right corner of
the store, a whole section devoted to plastic
cat-eyes, metal ovals and plastic circles from
days past. Many of the vintage frames are
also classic brands, such as Anglo-American
and Ralph Lauren, so quality doesn’t have to
be sacrificed for classic style.
Janedis and his employees work hard to
build relationships with their customers and
provide the best eyewear service available.
“We are about Customer 101,” says Isaac
Feig, an optician at the store. “We’re a small
business and we talk to each other.” That
way, every employee knows about each customer’s
needs and wants, and can provide
service accordingly. It’s this kind of personalized
attention that has kept customers coming
back time and again. Many have been
coming since Janedis bought the store.
Since bold plastic P3s aren’t everybody’s
frame of choice, the store also stocks other
styles. Janedis says the sales of rimless frames
are increasing, although they still only make
up about 15 percent of their business. Sunwear
makes up an even smaller portion at an
estimated 10 percent. It seems customers
can’t get enough of the preppy look. “People
are motivated by a signature concept,” says
Feig. “They have a picture in their mind.”
Once the customer has explained what they
are looking for, Janedis and Feig find three
to four choices that fit their description, so
as not to overwhelm the customer. That way,
everybody leaves happy.
The future of Janedis’ store looks bright.
Despite the influx of chain one-stop eye
exam and eyewear shops, A.R. Trapp is
going strong with the same mom-and-pop
atmosphere and classic, timeless preppy
looks it’s had from the beginning. “There are
many competitors out there now, when there
used to only be two or three,” says Feig. But
it’s the customer service that keeps them
coming back. “We give people choices and
build a relationship with them,” says Feig.
“Such a thing does not exist any more.”
Since his store is still unique, Janedis does
not have any changes planned for the future.
Other than adding a web site, he sees no reason
to alter a formula that’s not broken. Customers
appreciate a store where they are recognized
and their needs are personally
addressed. Like his famous P3 frames, good
customer service never goes out of style.