In the window of Modern Eye, on a marble-topped table, there stands a vase of flowers. Look closer, though, and you’ll notice that where there should be blossoms there are plastic eyeballs. Realistic ones in shades of blue, brown, and green.
Spend more than a moment in the shop, which stands on the corner of 13th and Walnut Streets on in downtown Philadelphia, and you’ll understand that this playful approach to retail is the foundation that Modern Eye stands on. Their glass display cases—full of frames by trendy designers Claire Goldsmith, Mykita, Carter Bond, Jono Hennessy and many more—are lined with maps, vintage books, and currency, colorful bills from every corner of the world. In the waiting area where there could be a standard, beige sofa, stands a red, tufted velvet settee and a big gold lamp.
Modern Eye is unabashedly kitschy, and the people behind the counter are as quirky as the decor, but what makes the shop great—and what backs up all of their silliness beyond their amazing selection of frames by small designers—is incredible customer service.
Instead of leaving shoppers to browse aimlessly, slowly growing more and more overwhelmed by the selection of styles, materials, colors, and prices, Modern Eye’s hip, friendly staff gets to know their customers. They ask about their work, their style, their preferences, and, based on these cues, they pull a selection of frames from the case.
Rectangular tortoiseshell, for one gentleman, winged purple cat eyes for an impossibly hip white-haired woman, and something round and trendy, made using 3D printing, for the fellow in the tweed jacket. There are classic silhouettes and contemporary frames, metal and acetate in every tone and texture.
Like dining at a fine restaurant or staying as a guest at an elegant hotel, shopping there leaves the impression of being looked after. Maybe you never would have pulled that pair of gold frames out of the case, thinking them too daring. But then, when you put them on, and look at the mirror, even you are surprised. Even without prescription lenses you’re looking—and seeing—better already.