Green And Save: Interview With Johnny Cook of Smarter Eyewear

smarter-eyewear-300x256Awhile back on one of the forums, Johnny Cook of Smarter Eyewear posted these amazing pictures of his new Eco Friendly Eyecare office. It was so unique in that he salvaged pallets from all over. (Pallets are Free, check out craigslist) I was intrigued and asked him if we could do an interview.

East Texan,Johnny Cook has working in the optical industry since college. As an ABO Certified Optician his background includes everything from a Pearle Francis to optometric boutiques. After moving to Baton Rouge, he knew the opportunity presented itself to him to have his own shop with a business partner.

1.) What is the origin of the name ‘Smarter Eyewear’?

  • The name is honestly a product of brainstorming on my way to work one day.  I just tried to think of something people associated with wearing glasses (looking smart) that could translate to an adjective that made a product desirable.  I liked the alliteration of the syllables and the name was born.  I honestly didn’t have a focus on frame lines when I came up with the name.

2.) What made you do the Eco thing, with pallets, and how did you choose the brands-most are Eco, I’ve noticed

Smarter-eyewear-1

  • My first attention to eco-friendly eyewear was with ECO brand eyewear from MODO.  I sold them at a friend’s boutique in Houston, TX.  Great product, great price point.  I was honestly working at my previous optical retail job and one day noticed a large amount of pallets piled up on a construction site.  I had just looked over catalogs of typical optical fixtures the night before and was fretting about the cost.  I looked at those pallets and thought: “Well, those are free.”  Truthfully, ECO eyewear is the only brand we have with a true “green” focus.  We do, however, have quite a few cause-driven lines.  Smarter Eyewear doesn’t mean the eyewear is strictly smart in only one way.  We think our collections are smart for several reasons.  We have anvifrieze and friezeframes that are made 100% in the US.  We think that’s smart.  We have Activist Eyewear with the Split-Fit temple that we think is very smart.  We have KREWE du Optic sunglasses that are designed and inspired by our sister city, New Orleans, which brings in a local, but smart aspect.  We have TOMS sunwear and optical coming in Feb which is cause-driven, of course.  MODO has a one for one giving model as well.  Also, 141 eyewear and SHAUNS sunwear and eyewear which focus on giving Rx eyewear.  Aframes eyewear is another great one we carry as they donate proceeds to vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries. We also carry products from Menizzi Italy which are made to fit specifically smaller or larger PD customers.  We carry 2.5 eyephorics from italee which we feel is a smart rimless product.   We also carry SALT. Optics as we think their independent spirit combines well with us and our customers.  We also like Entourage of 7 for the same reasons and RVS and POV.

3.) Who built out the store with the pallets and where did you get them?

  • My partner and I built all of the fixtures in the store.  The space we have is part of a brand new shopping center anchored by Louisiana’s first and only Trader Joe’s grocery store.  As soon as we heard that Trader Joe’s was coming our way, I knew it’d be a perfect location for an optical shop.  So, when negotiating the lease, we asked for minimal amenities.  We have a large open space with a bathroom in the back corner and open ceilings.  The floors are bare, stained concrete, and air ducts and lighting are all exposed.  I wanted the space to look cool, but not stuffy.  The pallets came from everywhere.  I would call hardware stores, plant nurseries, lumber yards, etc.  Anyone who would give them to us, we’d take them.  Everyone was happy to give them.  We used them to make the display cabinets with a single drawer and we then used the scraps from those to make the brackets for the glass shelves on the wall.  It was an interesting process, as neither of us had any wood-working background.

smarter-4.) Any more reclaimed touches or green enhancements? 

  • My partner also made the rug for the seating area in the back by sewing together reclaimed burlap sacks that coffee is shipped in.  A local coffee company donated the sacks.  We do have a tank-less water heater in the bathroom.

5.)  What has been the customer response so far?

  • Customer response has been great.  We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.
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