By Victoria Garcia
Spex by Ryan
Number of employees 1
A specialty eyewear shop wholeheartedly focusing on the importance of high-quality independent eyewear.
Spex by Ryan finds its home in Saskatchewan, Canada, a prairie province that is bordered on the south by Montana and North Dakota. One of the only two landlocked provinces in Canada, Saskatchewan is known for its mining industry and is the world’s largest exporter of uranium. The province was once very secluded but its economy recently boomed in the past few years, a progression that has led many natives to travel more and bring back new ideas. Celebrating its one year anniversary this month, Spex by Ryan is owned by Horne, who believes the artistic, vibrant community surrounding his new shop goes hand in hand with his ideals and creativity. “I have 23 years of clientele who know what I do and know what I carry,” says Horne. “But it’s been really refreshing in this new store that I have all new people that have never been exposed to what I have to offer.” Educating old and new customers on the importance and individuality of independent eyewear collections is something Horne believes is a vital part of his practice. Here is where he sets himself apart from the competition, with past experiences and a true understanding of what each independent eyewear line embodies. “I wanted to totally go my own route without duplication of what other stores may offer. It’s a mindset that I want to really promote the independents as the highest quality and most creative and most unique eyewear, and that’s what I stand for.” Horne refuses to sell designer brands that can be found in many other optical stores and prefers to carry what he considers better alternatives for his customers. “It’s about educating people about what’s available. I wouldn’t have opened the store if I didn’t think it would be a go,” he explains. “My niche is small, independent luxury brands, and my knowledge and experience with optics is kind of a different approach to solving people’s vision problems through lenses.”
Previously a clothing store, Horne made a few adjustments to the location in order to create the layout he desired. The 800-square-foot retail space is open and intimate, giving Horne the ability to assist customers with a consultative approach. He had custom cabinets remade and opted against eyewear displays on the walls in order to keep customers directed and comfortable with the selections he offers. Horne guides customers throughout the store, showing them cabinet displays and frames while helping to eliminate certain selections that do not apply to them. “I’ve had a lot of people really enjoy this format because they get really stressed when it’s time to look for eyewear. When they walk into places, it’s just wall-to-wall frames on racks everywhere. Overall, I think this format is best; I think it’s more influenced by the European way of doing things.” With a store layout not meant for browsing, there are no separate men’s and women’s sections, but collections are displayed together and all have a specific place. Each collection represents a different genre; some represent American or French lines while others represent specialty materials or technology. Among these collections, customers can find an array of genres including Dita, Thierry Lasry, Barton Perreira, Andy Wolf and Vinylize. “When you’re dealing with these brands in a town where people are only used to name brands that are so common, I feel they’re not getting their due justice when people are just rummaging through,” says Horne. “They’re not getting a little of the story or a little background of what they are looking at. There’s just that creativity involved and the craftsmanship and story, and there’s just no reason for me to carry anything else.” Horne enjoys educating and introducing customers to independent lines while creating an engaging environment for customers to learn about his passion for eyewear and what he has to offer.
Spex by Ryan stocks about 1,000 frames with a wide price range to accommodate all customers. With distressed wood floors, an array of colorful artwork and an accented graffiti wall, the shop exudes a friendly, imaginative vibe. “I want to have a lot of fun,” says Horne. “I really don’t want it to feel like a traditional optical store but more of a really cool, fashionable place to come hang out.” The back of the store consists of two former dressing rooms that now serve as an office, and a small lab where Horne does all of his own finishing work. “It’s about providing a really cool selection, not about me making money out of this business. I would honestly do this for free if I could. So to me, I get so excited when new frames come in—it’s absolutely the best.” Horne has hosted trunk shows as well as an art show that have exposed both new and returning customers to his store. In contrast with his love for independent eyewear, Horne has started stocking Briston watches, a high-quality French collection that coincides with his love for independent lines. “I think watches are just a really nice complement to eyewear.”
Horne has also established an identity within his social media presence. With constantly updated Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds, Horne posts all original content. “It seems people are enjoying what I’m offering on social media,” he says. “I try to keep feeding that every day, and it’s really fun. Through social media I’ve really enjoyed connecting with hairstylists, makeup artists and other fashion-type people.” Horne posts fascinating photos of models and customers posing in eyewear, newly acquired eyewear styles and advertisements for upcoming events. Now with the freedom of promoting his own store, Horne has a marketing team behind him that has helped with branding, logos and store images. Posting images of his customers has allowed followers to resonate with what Spex by Ryan is all about, making the experience personable and relatable for all customers. “I can’t pinpoint it but definitely since I’ve moved into this space, I’ve seen a lot more young people check me out. My social media presence has been quite strong, and it has captured a lot more young people.”
Horne describes himself as being embarrassingly over-enthusiastic, a trait that might be an aid to his prosperous shop. “I try to make it fun and relaxing… no stress or pressure when helping people.” Horne tries to challenge his patients in trying on something fun and new when they visit his store. He believes this is an important task that helps to narrow down possible choices for each customer. “I like to take their comfort level and exceed it a little bit, and make it fun and enjoyable for them.” A true positive to this customer service is the relationships Horne has built with his customers, one of his most motivating factors. “It’s not just relationships but friendships where I see people around town, and it’s like we’ve known each other for years. That’s a big part of what I do. I like building these friendships.” An independent man that sells independent eyewear. That’s something 20/20 can get on board with.