Photos © Sherri Koop Photography

By Emily Belfiore

The Vancouver, B.C., district of Gastown has undergone many changes in recent years, making the dynamic town a meeting ground for stylish locals. One thing that has remained the same throughout this transformative time is bruce eyewear. Located in the heart of the historic town, bruce eyewear has been catering to the eyewear needs of customers near and far since July 2000. With over 40 eclectic brands in their dispensary and two Vancouver locations, bruce eyewear stays true to its promise of “having amazing eyeglasses at all times.”

At the helm of it all is Vancouver native and purple-haired Nada Vuksic, who co-owns the business with Garry Hapton, owner of The Brass Monocle in Calgary. The two got their start working together in the optical department of the Canadian lifestyle store Bruce. When the lifestyle store closed its doors in December 2004, Vuksic and Hapton were presented with the opportunity to start fresh. They took their passion for eyewear and the name of their former employer to Gastown and within a month, bruce eyewear was up and running. “The market didn’t understand Bruce’s model at the time, so we ended up having to find our own way,” explains Vuksic. “When we left, we weren’t able to retain any of the ways the people could contact us. All we had was the name ‘Bruce,’ so we weren’t going to change it; we had built up four years of really great clientele, and we wanted people to be able to find us.”

bruce eyewear

Gastown, Vancouver, B.C.



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A luxury retailer excels by offering clients a genuine experience and striking eyewear.
Since then, Vuksic and her team have been providing excellence in eyewear, customer service and technology to their loyal clientele. The successes of bruce eyewear paved the way for Vuksic and Hapton to open a second store, bruceToo, in 2014. “I’m really grateful for the opportunities I’ve had,” exclaims Vuksic. “I’m grateful for the business and its success, and I’m grateful for my team that helped make that happen. Every day I wake up and I’m excited; we’re still here! I’m still excited about glasses every day.”

Bruce eyewear stands at about 900 square feet and consists of a dispensary staff of 11 employees that work fluidly between both locations. Nine display cabinets holding between 150 and 200 frames, with an average retail price between $170 and $3,700, outline the rectangular-shaped establishment. These frames rest comfortably and securely in large drawers with plexiglass covers that enable clients to easily browse the collections on display. These fixtures have been customized to hold an increased number of product and are typically updated every two years to accommodate bruce eyewear’s growing range. Toward the back of the store facing the street level window is the service counter, where Vuksic and her staff are waiting with friendly faces to welcome and engage with customers. “I think we manage the best we can with the smaller space. Clients are engaged by the product they see as they walk through and can see that there’s someone in the back that’s ready to greet them and facing them,” says Vuksic while explaining how the store’s layout enhances the customer’s shopping experience. “When people come in here, we’re welcoming them into our home. You never not look up when somebody comes into your house or say, ‘hi’ or ‘welcome.’”

In her 11 years as co-owner, Vuksic has successfully separated the store from the lifestyle shop Bruce, allowing it to evolve into its own identity and be true to its core values without being dictated by trends. “When we were at Bruce, we were a little bit more restrained and constrained by the environment and product that was around us, and the particular vibe of the store,” Vuksic recalls. “When we went into our own space here, one of the things that emerged was that people were coming in here and saying, ‘Yes, you’re back.’ There was a sense that I wasn’t being true to myself completely in that original setup.”

The product carried in bruce eyewear reflect an individualistic spirit and are logo free wherever possible, attracting a remarkable array of customers. They can expect to find an assortment of notable luxury brands including Blake Kuwahara, SALT. Optics, Dita, Kirk & Kirk, Leisure Society and Barton Perreira. “Our clients are not a particular demographic, other than they are typically a sophisticated, well-traveled group of individuals who like to be unique and prefer things that are logo free,” says Vuksic. “We don’t look at it like we are followers of fashion, but that we are bigger believers in style. I think people think we’re cool because we’re inclusive and respectful. Everyone is welcome to come in here and bring their little piece of cool into our cool pie.” Vuksic believes there is a style of eyewear for every occasion, which helps her keep an open mind when selecting the brands she carries and the frames she puts on display. “We want to send the message that our frames are used to say something about what you do and what you love,” she explains. “You might be the CEO of a company in a very conservative field who wears classic tortoise frames to work, but maybe on the weekend, you’re sporting something different, like a hot pink number, because you have a different form of self-expression. We can accommodate different styles so everyone can find something.”

This outstanding selection of frames has led to the store gaining a solid reputation as a major influencer in the eyewear arena. Vuksic explains the store has taken on a new role as “brand launcher,” taking bruce eyewear from not only carrying brands, but to building them, too. Some of these brands include Ahlem Eyewear, Masahiro Maruyama and pLAtOy. “Emerging brands will come to us and say they want placement in our store because people assume that if they see it here, it’s trending and cutting edge,” says Vuksic. “We’ve always been staunch supporters of some of what I consider to be the pillars of our industry. I know we’re doing something because sometimes after we have a new brand, I get calls from the suppliers saying, ‘Yes, we’ve had some inquiries about this brand.’ So I think we’re influencers in that way for sure.”

With co-owner Hapton miles away working in Calgary, Vuksic has developed an extensive knowledge of dispensing. She understands the importance of staying up to date on lens technology and being mindful of the customer’s vision needs and their lifestyle. “We have to be mindful of good, solid dispensing practices, information, guidance and advice,” she says. “I think we also have to listen to people, but also be able to persuade them that when they’re coming in looking for a new pair of glasses, it’s also an opportunity. We have to remember to see eyewear with a person behind it, as a tool to help to see and make a statement.” Vuksic has also gained better insight into the inner workings of her clients’ minds and buying behaviors. “I’m a lifelong learner, and that translates into everything we do, especially with the relationships that I form with the clients,” Vuksic explains. “I love people watching, and I think mindfulness and listening are important when it comes to understanding the client. We have to be prepared to offer options; people are always going to want to look fresh and look new.”

On top of her day-to-day tasks as co-owner, Vuksic also oversees the store’s social media accounts. Building bruce eyewear’s online presence is something that Vuksic takes great pride in—she even refers to the Instagram account as her “baby.” Using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have allowed Vuksic to reach people from all over the world. She uses social media as a tool to gain feedback from clients and connect with eyewear enthusiasts, inviting followers into the colorful world of bruce eyewear. “The social media aspect attracts the most clients. I would say that our social media has definitely brought more awareness and more crossover within a community of like-minded people,” explains Vuksic. “These individuals may not be in our industry, but they share the philosophies that are put out there in our social media. It’s the biggest vehicle for marketing right now, for sure.” Vuksic credits this growing web of connections with attracting more clients and generating buzz around bruce eyewear.

In addition to its exceptionally-curated Instagram profile, bruce eyewear also has a notable presence on Yelp. The store’s Yelp page has become a proclamation of adulation for the product and Vuksic’s incredibly accommodating team. Vuksic is willing to go to great lengths for her customers; she has personally delivered frames to her client’s house and even invited customers into her home when the store was closed to fix their glasses. Stories like these make it clear that these positive reviews are well-deserved. “When we changed locations, people came to my house and stood in my bathroom and tried on glasses. I’d pull out a box and show them new frames and I had it set up in my house,” she recalls. “We do stuff like that because we’re real; we’re not part of a big machine. We don’t punch a clock in that sense.”

Ensuring that the customer is fully taken care of is Vuksic’s top priority. She has made it her mission to build bruce eyewear into a model that respects inclusivity and accounts for every customer’s unique preferences and experiences. Instilling this all-encompassing sense has been Vuksic’s mission since the get-go. She refrains from following a single aesthetic to eliminate the “one size fits all” mentality from the industry to guarantee that no customer is excluded. “I don’t think the world should be ‘one size fits all.’ When I buy frames or look at a collection, I look at it more in terms of that spectrum of the different types of client,” Vuksic explains. “We really try to make sure people are comfortable. We like to present the idea that we’re multifaceted people, and I like the variety we have going on here.”

The future is looking very bright and fruitful for Vuksic and bruce eyewear. She is counting all her blessings and eagerly awaiting new opportunities to present themselves. Although there are no immediate plans to open a third store, Vuksic isn’t opposed to expanding the brand—as long as it doesn’t abandon the values that distinguish it from other stores. “I like to think anything can happen. I would make bruce eyewear global if it could be done without it losing its charm, good foundation and honesty,” she explains. “But, I could be walking down the street and something could grab my gut’s attention to open another store. It was a gut decision to open in Gastown, and it was a gut decision to open the second store. I’ve learned to be fearless and listen to your gut; you have to be comfortable taking risks, and your gut rarely steers you wrong.” ■