An East Passyunk eyewear store showcases locally produced glasses – and local artists
“A few months ago, a family hard up for money came into our store with a little girl.” Optician Marie “MJ” Jordan speaks and burnishes a glossy frame with a microfiber cloth in the showroom at Innervision Fine Eyewear, 1815 E Passyunk Ave. “The girl—no more than three years old—had high hyperopia. She couldn’t see things in front of her nose. We made her glasses, and when she tried them on her face beamed. She could see her mother clearly for the first time. She cried. Her mom cried. I cried. Other customers cried.” She placed the glasses on a shelf at last. “I love my job.”
Lauren Morihara, who has been with Innervision for over five years and now manages the store, nods in agreement from behind a desk. She and Jordan have the familiarity of old friends though their relationship, like the store, is barely over a year old.
Innervision opened on East Passyunk Avenue following the success of owner Cliff Balter’s flagship operation on Rittenhouse Square. “There was nothing else like it in this part of South Philly. There was a need.” says Morihara. “Candle stores are cute, but you don’t need a candle. We looked at Northern Liberties and West Philly—Passyunk Avenue was perfect.”
“We fit right in,” adds MJ, “and South Philly gives back! People bring us food and drop by to say hello. Some have said they wish we were a bar so they could hang out all day.”
While millennial Wharton graduates or mega-conglomerates from Italy run most national eyeglass stores, Innervision has a unique angle and mission: stay local, serve locals, and pay local employees a living wage. Many of their frames fall under their house brand, Philly Eyeworks, and carry names like “Down Goes Frazier,” “Love Train,” “Osage Avenue,” and “Whiz Wit.” Complete pairs of glasses start at $149. Add a second pair for $89. Best of all, they’re customizable. Each is custom colored and sandblasted to-order and finished by hand in Philadelphia.
When Philly Eyeworks prepared to re-launch with a new design, Morihara and Balter brainstormed ways to engage the local arts community. They founded the Philly Artist in Focus campaign, promoting artists on their website and giving them a chance to distribute their work on limited-edition microfiber cleaning cloths included with every pair of glasses.
“Our cloths have carried Miriam Singer, Tim Eads, Chris Eads, and Mat Tonelli,” said Morihara. “We have also engaged the Center for Creative Works, a studio in Ardmore that develops creative workplace potential and cultural identity for people with intellectual disabilities. David Schmuckler, Tamisha Williams, Timothy O’Donovan, and Jenny Garrity all contributed.
“Sometimes we find artists for the lens cloths. Sometimes they find us. It’s an organic selection process. The next featured artist will be James Dupree, whose gallery is on 6th and Bainbridge.”
“It’s a fun way to support local artists, and introduce customers to artists they may not know,” adds MJ. “You can come in when your old cleaning cloth wears out and we’ll replace it. Then, you can connect with a new artist.”
Might the microfiber cloths one day be collector’s items? “They’re like Pokémon,” says Jordan. “You gotta catch ‘em all.”
1815 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
To send a message to the South Philly location: firstname.lastname@example.org