ANDERSONVILLE — A popular national eyeglasses shop is opening its latest Chicago location on Clark Street, but it’s already getting a chilly reception from local business leaders.
Warby Parker is set to open at 5219 N. Clark St., with work on the store underway. Signage for the store went up Tuesday. The Clark Street location will be the seventh Warby Parker in the city and the latest to come to a neighborhood business corridor.
Warby Parker’s move into the neighborhood has been met with apprehension by the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce. After learning of the company’s new location, chamber officials in March sent a note to commercial real estate agents reiterating the neighborhood’s focus is attracting locally owned businesses over national chains.
“The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce strives to expand its membership led by its long-standing and ingrained support for local and independent businesses,” the chamber’s statement read. “Let the Andersonville Chamber support your efforts to find mindful and intentional businesses for the Andersonville commercial corridor.”
Andersonville has prided itself on being a bastion of small businesses even as other neighborhood corridors have seen an influx of chains. Neighbors have bemoaned the addition of chain stores on Clark Street, but there can be a real economic impact to national brands moving next to mom-and-pops, officials said.
The Warby Parker store would be the seventh eyeglass business in the Andersonville business district and the 11th in a slightly larger vicinity, said David Oakes, director of business services and district manager for the chamber.
That includes Visionary Eye Care, 5222 N. Clark St., right across the street from Warby Parker. The LGBT-owned Visionary was founded in Andersonville in 1996 and has remained in the neighborhood ever since, expanding in 2016, according to its website.
“When a business does come in, it does affect businesses who have been here for 25 years,” he said. “Especially if you are right across the street.”
One benefit of locally owned businesses is they support the neighborhood with time and money, Oakes said. For example, Visionary provides optometry services to Howard Brown Health’s patients and the locally owned Pearl Vision, 4814 N. Clark St. gives eyeglasses and exams to disadvantaged kids, Oakes said.
“Why we support local is they give back to the community,” he said. “The larger businesses, they hire locally but the money doesn’t go into the community.”
Besides Visionary and Pearl Vision, other eyeglass shops on Clark Street in Andersonville include two different Big City Optical stores, MyEyeDr., Rosin Eyecare and Chen Family Eye Care, optometrist.
A spokesperson for Warby Parker declined to comment.
Warby Parker is set to take over the Clark Street storefront that was the longtime home of Brimfield antique store.
The shop closed in early 2021 after its owners called the police on a pro-Black Lives Matter sidewalk chalking event on Clark Street organized by the business community. It was in business for 13 years.
Some locally owned businesses were interested in opening in the prominent storefront vacated by Brimfield, Oakes said.
Warby Parker was founded as an online startup that sought to disrupt the eyeglass manufacturing industry with more affordable glasses and prescription lenses. The business opened its first standalone store in Chicago along Lincoln Park’s Armitage Avenue in 2014.
The business has stores on Southport Corridor in Lakeview and in Bucktown, Fulton Market, the Loop and Gold Coast.
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