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Do you wear glasses or contacts? If so, do you have a favorite place to pick up your eyewear, or it is a periodic hunt for good quality or looks? According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction — whether it’s all the time, just for reading or low light, or other occasions. Well, there’s a great local spot in business since 1989 for all of your optical needs: the eponymous Anthony Aiden Opticians at 42 St Marks Place, our February 2021 Business of the Month.
If you put your name on your business and in the spotlight, you have to stand behind the quality. And Anthony certainly does.
When he opened the shop 32 years ago, it was one of the very first such boutiques to bring eyeglasses to the forefront of fashion in the neighborhood. The design of the shop, with its funky East Village vibe, is still bringing in longtime and new customers, more than three decades later.
The shop established a strong reputation by presenting the most fashion-forward eyewear with exquisite displays, while providing personalized, knowledgeable service to offer the perfect eyewear for each customer.
Known for the most elaborate window displays poking fun at anything— from politics, to religion, to current events — Anthony uses his plate glass window as his forum, and revels in doing it. The latest display features a crystal skull he obtained from a local artist, which represents not death but strength and confidence, to face what we are all going through these days. And it really looks quite amazing, and “pops” in the window.
Anthony’s shop has always been a known neighborhood hang–out, conveniently located right next door to another Village classic, Porto Rico Importing Company coffee shop. And you will not find a friendlier staff, who are sometimes consoling those who are inconsolable or offering eyewear advice to those in need.
During the early days of the covid pandemic, Anthony leapt into action, or rather he carried on providing his essential service in a safe and responsible way.
He was receiving calls from people who ran out of contacts or broke their glasses and literally could not see. Imagine that.
He was shipping items himself or making deliveries or safe visits because no messenger services were operating. Or he was filling rapid prescriptions before people who were being furloughed or laid off would lose their insurance.
One elderly customer in her 90s who lives on East 6th Street and could not easily leave her home in the best of times broke her glasses during the early part of the pandemic. Anthony closed the shop to get her glasses, brought them back and worked on them. He fixed them up, and closed the shop again to bring them back to her. She was alone, he said; he later made her a new pair as well — complimentary. This is one of many such stories in which Anthony and his team helped out our neighbors in whatever ways they could, including ensuring that they could actually see.
Besides a loyal local clientele, Anthony has customers from all over the world, He is an adept social media user, and credits Instagram with helping him to connect with a customer base across the world. But Anthony has always been tech-savvy; as an optician, he has to be current, but he is also versed in modern marketing. Anthony saw the power of online marketing and communications with the advent of Yelp reviews many years ago and how an online presence could make or break a business like his. He has over 160 reviews and one recent January 2021 5 star review states:
Anthony is a lifelong New Yorker, and the East Village is, as he puts it, is “in my DNA.” In fact, his grandfather emigrated from Sicily and had a barbershop on Avenue A and East 12th Sreet. “My dad would take me to Gem Spa as a young boy to get egg creams. I started to hang out in the East Village when I was in my teens.”
Anthony continues to love the East Village to this day: “I worked in all areas of Manhattan. The East Village was always a multifaceted gem of a neighborhood that was occupied by many different types of people. From the struggling artist to the actors/actresses to the models and musicians, film directors and the list goes on… the people of the East Village are so cool and down to earth that I enjoy meeting new people and seeing familiar faces every day.”
“One of my favorite stories was when Lenny Kravitz in the early 90’s was a regular. One very busy Saturday he came behind the counter to help me show eyewear. He was shoulder to shoulder with me slinging eyeglasses. Imagine the look on the faces of those clients? It was quite the experience.”
Anthony Aiden Opticians has everything you need to create your completely customized glasses from conception to creation, and continued service thereafter. • EYE EXAMS • PRESCRIPTION LENSES • CUSTOM LENS COLOR • EYEGLASS REPAIRS/ ADJUSTMENTS, they do it all. I did get my eye exam done there a few years ago to renew my license and can attest to the great personal service.
Right now he is finding that his clients are looking for these very small batch eyewear lines, as well as limited and collector items. Most of his brands are very special and exclusive; like a small batch of whiskey, each is unique and not quite the same as the next. They come with hand made frames, fit and finish all done by hand.
Anthony is of course a licensed optician and has the ability to cut glasses and install and fit contacts. I was rather astounded to learn about the lab he has on the premises. He edges lenses and shapes them to fit into a frame, right there. Prescriptions are done, dye and tint, all onsite! And to fill a gap he makes and markets his own frames, with good quality and moderately priced frames in a classic style, with good plastic and titanium frames.
Anthony was generous with his time during our interview. He noted “COVID has forced my hand to an idea I had when starting my business. My wife said to me a few months back reminding me that my dream was to have a concierge appointment only practice for all services. Now my clients have that experience and are absolutely loving it. It’s so nice to connect with them and have a calm un-rushed experience where we can sit and chat, get to know each other as well as fulfill their Eyecare needs.”
To what does he attribute his success? “I always say “I don’t care what it cost me to make my clients happy I will do it. Success is not nearsighted — no pun intended. I look at developing relationships and build on my reputation. So if I lose money on an order, so be it. Client satisfaction is my goal. Since the dawn of review sites, most places dread the power of free speech. Me? I say bring it on!!!! I love to see my reviews. It actually amps me up to do what I do.”
When asked about his favorite local places, Anthony right away expresses his fondness for Italian food. He likes to support a variety of local places, ordering lunch very often from a different local business, and cross-promote restaurants online — some new, some old.
He recently “fell in love with” Gnocco on East 10th Street, lauding their great outdoor space and specials. Of Li’l Frankies, he said “I know Frank and he is a genius of a chef and great person.” And he noted that “with Veselka, how could you go wrong?”
Anthony and his business continue to thrive at 42 St. Marks Place, located just east of 2nd Avenue. since September 13, 1989! That’s why Anthony Aiden Opticians are our February 2021 Business of the Month. Visit them soon!
What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc
And here is a handy map of all of every Business of the Month: