Gay retailer competes with the mall chains

Posted on 23 Sep 2010 at 5:00pm

Service, style and a little bit of avant-garde translate into success for this Oak Lawn eyeglass retailer

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

FASHION FORWARD  |  Morgan Metcalf transformed a failing discounter into the No. 1 fashion eyewear store in the Metroplex. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
FASHION FORWARD  | Morgan Metcalf transformed a failing discounter into the No. 1 fashion eyewear store in the Metroplex. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Over the past few years, Fashion Optical has gone from discount store to high fashion boutique, becoming the highest-volume optical shop in Dallas/Fort Worth.

When Morgan Metcalf bought Fashion Optical, located on Oak Lawn Avenue at Lemmon, several years ago, he thought he could increase the store’s volume. But, he said, sales have increased beyond his wildest dreams.

Within his first year as owner, business tripled. Today, he’s more than doubled that total again and plans to open a second store.

And all that success happened while the country was in the throes of a deep recession.

A high-profile location is important, Metcalf said. But the location didn’t sustain the previous owner, who had sold discount eyewear there for 15 years.

“There’s no one silver bullet,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf’s background was in employment placement, so he said when he came into the optical business he looked at it with a fresh eye.

He upgraded lines and dropped the word “discount” from the name. He remodeled. He upgraded the service and did runway fashion shows.

“We serve champagne on Saturdays,” he said.

Looking for a way to compete with the mall stores, Metcalf recently added $55,000 in equipment that trumps all of his competitors.

“I’m spoiling all of my customers with a 24-hour turnaround time,” he said.

He can actually produce lenses faster in an emergency when customers lose or break their glasses and are relying on him for a quick replacement.

“We’re the only store within a 300-mile radius that can produce progressive lenses with all the coatings in as little as two hours,” he said.

Mall stores usually promise them in a week. That’s because stores that used to do the work on-premises now send the work out to central locations.

Metcalf has even increased his sales volume by servicing other small optical stores, offering them the same quick turnaround time.

When Metcalf first bought Fashion Optical, he said the store was in need of remodeling. He planned to do stained concrete floors. But when they stripped the floor, they uncovered 75-year-old terrazzo tile. Although the facade of the strip center is new, the building dates from the 1930s.

HI TECH  |  Fashion Optical is the only store within 300 miles with this equipment to produce progressive lenses themselves. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
HI TECH | Fashion Optical is the only store within 300 miles with this equipment to produce progressive lenses themselves. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Metcalf said his taste runs to the avant-garde. But when he was choosing new lines for his Oak Lawn store, he didn’t want to be too way-out for Texas. The lines he picked up included Gucci, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani.

While some vendors were hesitant to place their upscale products in a store that had only recently removed “discount” from its name, Metcalf has become the No. 1 retailer in the state for those and other fashion lines. Currently, he’s working on his own line of glasses that he hopes to debut later this year.

The store has become a destination and has attracted a celebrity clientele. He counts Jeff Bridges and Troy Aikman among his clientele. Many customers drive from outside the immediate area and even from out of state to shop with him regularly.

Metcalf has been active in the community and his lenses will be included in the Black Tie Dinner auction. Among others, he’s supported the Turtle Creek Chorale and Resource Center Dallas at their fundraisers.

While this store keeps Metcalf busy six days a week, he plans to get busier as he launches his new line and opens a second location.

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BRIEFS

After 10 years on Cedar Springs, Zen Salon moved to the Centrum where owner Paul Kraft had his first business. Mark Reavis, Isabel Munguia, and Kraft offer cuts, color, highlights, facial and body waxing, award-winning sunless airbrush tanning, and Pearlbrite teeth whitening in their new facility. … Lula B’s moved from its Lower Greenville Avenue location to 2639 Main St. in Deep Ellum. Their second store is on Riverfront (Industrial) Boulevard and features 80 vendors selling funky, kitschy and collectible, vintage and pimpadelic items.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

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