What started as a mom and pop optical store 18 years ago has now evolved into a team of 12 opticians, two optometrists, and two scheduling people. "At this point, Eyes on Fremont is kind of its own living, breathing, and constantly evolving organism" says owner Nate Ogura, who took over in 2011 with the promise of keeping the same off-beat spirit—more pop art than op mart—that founders Stan Jonassen and Linda Jangaard sparked in 1996.
He may have done them one better, though. The store's growth and their eponymous line launch earned them the title of America’s Finest Optical Retailer from Invision Magazine. Ogura takes us inside, here.
Shop Talk: What song or album is playing on your store’s sound system right now?
Ogura: Flume and Chet Faker's "What About Us?" I love both Flume and Chet Faker so a song by both of them is gold.
What was your first job? What did you love or hate about it and how does it compare to what you do now?
My first job was bagging groceries a Gary's Red Apple Market in Yakima. It was kind of crazy and in not such a good part of town. It doesn't compare a whole lot to what I do now, but it sure makes me thankful we don't stock Mad Dog 20/20 at Eyes on Fremont.
What’s your favorite thing in the store right now? Why?
The Eyes on Fremont line and color, color, color.
Where do you shop when you’re not at your store?
A few weeks ago I bought a new bike from Gregg's Cycles at Greenlake. It's been great riding around Seattle in all this great weather we've been having. The Gregg's experience was great too, it's a cool Seattle business.
What do you love about your store’s neighborhood?
It's funny, five years ago there wasn't a whole lot in upper Fremont. Now that's changing pretty quickly, but a lot of the same neighborhood people are still here, so it's kept the same good feel.
What restaurants and coffee shops do you recommend?
Wow, where to start? Originals in upper Fremont like Paseo and Brad's Swingside Cafe (which shutters in February) are incredible. Rockcreek and Roux are a couple of great new additions too. For coffee we're so lucky; Lighthouse is here, Vita, and now Vif Wine/Coffee has made such a great space out of the old Herfy's.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in your store?
Maybe not as weird as it was endearing, but the late Dee Dee Rainbow would frequent the shop and give us "Rainbow blessings." If you ever saw Dee Dee at any Seattle events you would understand.