East Liberty Warby Parker store. Image courtesy of Warby Parker.

[Update: The Warby Parker store in East Liberty will officially open on August 19 with an event that includes a full selection of frames and reading material, as well as treats from Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream.]

The online retailer Warby Parker has quickly grown from a niche catering to the near- and far-sighted to a formidable competitor in the world of trendy eyewear. Now the company is bringing a new shopping experience to Pittsburgh, but not without some obstacles.

Warby Parker planned to debut its first Pittsburgh brick-and-mortar store this week, but construction delays put the opening on hold.

Artwork above the yet unopened Warby Parker store in East Liberty store. Photo by Amanda Waltz.

“Unfortunately, we just received word that a few finishing touches are still being put on the space, and therefore the store opening has been pushed back,” wrote a representative from Derris, a New York-based brand strategy and communications agency that represents Warby Parker, in an email.

She adds that they’re “unsure of a new opening date at this point.”

Located on Penn Avenue in East Liberty, the new store will become part of a fast-growing retail scene in the neighborhood. It will sit in a row of storefronts that includes the men’s apparel store Bonobos, another e-commerce startup that made the jump to brick-and-mortar stores, and Homage, a shop that sells clothing and accessories featuring retro Pittsburgh designs.

The Bonobos and Homage stores in East Liberty. Photo by Amanda Waltz.

“We’ve been excited about coming to Pittsburgh for a while,” writes Dave Gilboa, co-founder & co-CEO, in an email. “The city is pulsing with an entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to innovation that naturally aligns with our brand ethos.”

Launched in 2010, Warby Parker was dubbed the “Netflix for eyewear” for offering customers an easier, less expensive alternative to frame stores. Frames are chosen online and then shipped free to your home, where you can try them on for a limited time and decide which ones work best. The rejects are sent back and you’re only billed for the pair you want.

The company gained popularity thanks to its business model, a forgiving return policy and, most importantly, in-house designed frames starting at $95 (price includes prescription lenses).

A company press release describes the Pittsburgh store’s aesthetic as having a library feel, with “colorful displays of books, brass detailing galore, and our full collection of eyeglasses and sunglasses on light oak shelving.” Much like its inspiration, the store will feature a customer service-focused “Reference Desk” and books from independent publishers like McSweeney’s, 331⁄3 and n+1. The reading material will also include 50 Ways to Lose Your Glasses, a humorous illustrated work published by Warby Parker.

Other amenities will include on-site opticians and tablets equipped with Warby Parker’s own Point of Everything, a point-of-sale system that allows customers to view and order frames online with the help of a store team member. Prescription glasses ship within days, while sunglasses and non-prescription glasses are available for immediate takeaway.

Special to the store is an original in-store mural and exterior artwork by U.K.-based illustrator Anna Wray. It will also stock a pair of limited-edition, Pittsburgh-exclusive sunglasses not available online or in other Warby Parker stores.

Warby Parker’s Pittsburgh-exclusive sunglasses, the Downing in English Oak with Flash Mirrored Pacific Blue lenses. Image courtesy of Warby Parker.
Warby Parker’s Pittsburgh-exclusive sunglasses, the Downing in English Oak with Flash Mirrored Pacific Blue lenses. Image courtesy of Warby Parker.

The store is part of an aggressive push by the company to open 25 new brick-and-mortar locations nationwide this year. Besides Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, they expanded to Palo Alto, California and plan to add more stores in Miami and Los Angeles. If successful, the campaign would bring Warby Parker’s total store count to about 70.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.