By Victoria Garcia
An area filled with promising and eager shoppers located on the gold coast of Chicago, Oak Street is a luxury shopping destination for those searching for exclusivity. Small boutiques, salons and restaurants surround the downtown area, attracting shoppers from all over the world. With skyscrapers lining the famous Michigan Avenue just blocks away, Oak Street offers a slightly different, more intimate setting. Glasses, Ltd. finds a way to stand above the rest, offering a unique combination of personal service and sophistication while simultaneously giving customers a look into the world of high-end eyewear.
Number of employees 4
A family-owned business takes customer service to a luxurious plateau.
Glasses, Ltd. has been a landmark on Oak Street for over 40 years. Bringing in customers from Chicago and other parts of the country, this family-owned business has set the bar very high for its competition. Owners and father and son duo Bernie and Zach Winitz have a mission to provide only the best to their customers, giving them unparalleled customer service to go along with their eyewear needs. The 1,200-square-foot eyewear boutique has an open floor plan displaying hand-selected frames for customers. With a minimalistic approach, the store layout ensures that customers feel at home. “We wanted to lay it out so it’s very comfortable,” explains Zach, son of the Winitz pair. “You don’t have to go into a drawer to try on glasses, and you don’t have to ask us to open a glass case, you can try on anything you want.” Frames are laid out on striking wood displays that align the walls of the store. Some frames are laid out by themselves on shelves while others can be found in black trays. Each shelf or tray is organized by designer and contain various frames for customers to handle and examine. Immediately, customers are able to identify what brands they are browsing without asking employees, giving customers an easier shopping experience.
On the other side of the store, products are displayed on glass and wood dispensing tables where employees can assist customers in choosing and trying on frames. Keeping with a simple design, the store has hardwood floors to match display cases and no point-of-purchase materials. Lights are strategically placed above displays to enhance the allure of frames. When it comes to window and store displays, they are constantly being rotated to showcase new products. Throughout the year, Glasses, Ltd. holds trunk shows from several designers, which Zach feels are vitally important in showing customers the latest styles. “My customers want the newest styles, and they want it immediately,” says Zach. “Since companies keep coming out with new products every Vision Expo, it’s really important that our customers see them as quickly as possible.”
Although their elite location on Oak Street bodes well for tourists and new clients, Glasses, Ltd. brings in a specific type of customer. Appealing to a high-end clientele, frames range from about $300 to $9,000. Thom Browne, Barton Perreira, Robert Marc, Lunor, Matsuda and Dita are a few of the most popular brands that make up their 1,000-frame inventory. Along with high-quality products comes high-profile customers. Many athletes and coaches from the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears, including frequent customer Brandon Marshall, have come to Glasses, Ltd. for their eyewear needs. Zach has provided players and staff with prescription glasses as well as the occasional plano frame with a quality AR-coated lens. The store was even shut down years ago to allow Oprah Winfrey to privately shop collections and be added to its list of famous clients. But those who don’t travel down Oak Street can still find the quality offered by Glasses, Ltd. at their second location in the 900 North Michigan Shops. Located approximately one block away from Oak Street, the 900 Shops is the highest-end mall in Chicago offering seven floors of shopping possibilities. The slightly smaller store carries a few different brands but has the same vision and passion as the Oak Street store.
Glasses, Ltd.’s interior design leans toward a more simple approach, but their exceptional customer service techniques are anything but simple. Zach’s dedication to customer service resonates with his employees and all those who come in contact with Glasses, Ltd. With both stores open seven days a week, Zach has found devoted employees and optometrists who share the same passion for eyewear as he does. An optometrist, who walks back and forth between both stores, is available on certain days for eye examinations and to write contact lens and frame prescriptions. When hiring his staff, Zach wants employees who recognize what Glasses, Ltd. is all about. “They must understand high-end retail,” explains Zach. “We specialize first and foremost in high-end, beautiful eyewear.” Despite most frames being in the high-priced range, the staff works with customers to find an affordable style while managing a budget. Employees are also responsible for social media posts, contacting representatives for trunk shows, communicating with clients who are due for exams and assisting customers with any need, no matter how small. After purchasing a pair of frames, customers have a lifetime of services available to them. They are entitled to free adjustments, discounts on lenses, detailed eye exams and many other incentives. “If you come into our store, we will work with you on your lenses,” says Zach.
“Anytime you purchase glasses, you can refill your cleaner forever with us.” With a new, recently launched website, Glasses, Ltd. is keeping their promise to customers by providing them with store updates and announcements. The interactive website allows customers to keep up with the store’s social media feed, schedule an appointment and order contacts. “3 for 3,” a bonus feature on the site, lets customers search collections without coming into the store. Customers can select up to three frames from the website to try on, which will be mailed home for three days, without having to pay for delivery and return shipping. Setting themselves apart from other eyewear boutiques, Glasses, Ltd. also has an associate lab located twenty minutes away in Skokie, Ill. If customers are in need of a repair or an urgent need, it can be taken care of immediately. If Glasses, Ltd. cannot take care of a customer, they keep a friendly repertoire with their competition. “I want our competitors to know that we are customer-service oriented,” says Zach. “If they need a screw or have a pair of glasses that we don’t carry, they can send them to us. We’ll take care of it or vice versa.”
Taking extra care of customers is one of the many things that Zach learned from his father and mentor, Bernie. Even though Bernie has been retired for six years, he still collaborates with Zach to make Glasses, Ltd. the best it can be. A year ago, the two launched Zachary Bernard, an eyewear line designed specifically with their customers in mind. Designed by both Winitz men, the Chicago-inspired line gives customers frame options that incorporate sophistication, functionality and comfort. “We designed it for our customers because a lot of them who come into the store don’t really like funky, crazy stuff,” explains Zach. “They wanted a nice conservative line, and we came out with that.” Zachary Bernard is available at both Glasses, Ltd. locations and has two lines of high-end frames for customers to choose from. Handcrafted by Apis Horn, the high-end buffalo horn line and acetate line can also be personalized with sun clips and numerous colored tints. All lenses are processed in an associate lab to ensure quality and prompt service for customers. “The line is doing really well,” explains Zach, who can always be seen wearing his buffalo horn sunglasses. “What’s really cool is that in the Chicago area, specifically the gold coast, I’ve started to see a lot of my customers wearing our designs and our line.”
With the successful launch of Zachary Bernard, Glasses, Ltd. has proven that it is much more than a luxury eyewear boutique. It has created an eyewear haven with one-of-a-kind service where customers are trusted and encouraged to experiment with the latest designs and styles. “We are customer service-oriented,” emphasizes Zach. “It’s all about our customers because our customers feed us.” ■