Edward Beiner’s Coral Gables Store is a Focal Point for his Vision That Glasses Should Always be a Leading Fashion Item
Edward Beiner never intended to be an eyewear designer or purveyor of glasses – though he always wanted to start his own business. Retailing, he says, was also in his DNA, and being the son of a Brazilian jeweler, he was raised with a sense of both sales and fashion.
But it was not until he had an epiphany one day, when he entered an eyeglass shop in Toronto, that he saw the potential for something that everybody needed but few understood had fashion potential.
“We spend money on our shoes, and on our bags – if you’re a woman,” he says. “You meet someone for lunch and the shoes go under the table, the bag goes on the back of the chair, but you are sitting there with glasses on your face,” he says. “My big vision was that, this goes on your face. Why does it have to be a cheap item, just a medical device?”
After learning the industry by working for Four Eyes, first in Puerto Rico (where his family had moved) and then in Miami, he was ready to launch. With a $50,000 loan from friends and relatives, he opened his first shop in 1981 – Mr. Eye’s Optical, a stone’s throw from the Gables in South Miami.
“Back then, everything was $23.95. If you bought a pair of glasses for $32.95 you were overpaying,” says Beiner. “I thought, let’s turn this into luxury, let’s bring the best lenses we can to the market” – and the best design. So he went to small factories in Italy, France and Germany “to bring back something creative and unique.”
Over the next decade Beiner not only sourced from European eyeglass designers; he became a designer/manufacturer himself. His wholesale Edward Beiner brand became so successful that he renamed his now growing chain of eyeglass shops as Edward Beiner, Purveyors of Fine Eyewear. Today it is called, Edward Beiner, Eyes Forward, with 12 South Florida locations.
In the Gables, Beiner was one of the first retailers to open in the Shops at Merrick Park, in the fall of 2001. Here, designer frames begin at $150 and can climb to prices between $1,000 and $1,500 – for “nobler materials,” like hand-crafted buffalo horn. The sweet spot is between $350 and $600, with $400 being the average.
You are sitting there with glasses on your face. My big vision was that, this goes on your face. Why does it have to be a cheap item, just a medical device…Edward Beiner
“We know who are our clientele is. We don’t want to be everything to everyone. If you want things that are made differently,” says Beiner, then his is the place. Beiner’s shops also do eye examinations and provide contact lenses – “It’s both medical and fashion, to serve the needs of the community” – but what distinguishes them are unique selections. “I don’t carry all the brands,” he says. “Gucci is right now in extreme demand for Millenials and Baby Boomers. We carry it because we acknowledge that. But [in general] it has to be things that catch my eye. There are still small artisans around the world, and I do a lot of traveling to bring these to Miami.”
Among his recent finds are a collection by a younger California designer named Garrett Light, both rare and trending with Millenials; colorful frames by Caroline Abrams, a first in South Florida; and Eyevans from Japan, “hand-finished frames that look like jewelry.”
From his own collection, Beiner is on the cutting edge of technology with a new line of 3D-printed glasses, designed by him and made in France. “We are the first company able to bring a 3D product from France…. They have the benefits of [light] weight, they’re fashionable, and they look great. They’re designed with luxury in mind,” says Beiner. “I like to think of ourselves as incubators of new projects. That’s what differentiates us from the rest.”