John Toelken, Amy Kelly-Toelken, and DeeDee Brown are changing the way people see things in Seattle. Quite literally. Their SLU boutique Optical Nerve, which opened its doors this past April, is the city's newest spectacle shop, boasting an in-house lab and on-staff optician. The shelves are stocked with a chic variety of unique frames ranging from handcrafted Japanese brand Zero G to French luxury line Celine. Take a peep into the new shop and get to know its owners with our insighter interview below. (Then forgive us the vision puns—we can't help ourselves.)
Image: Kirby Ellis
Left to right: John Toelken, co-owner, Amy Kelly-Toelken, co-owner, and DeeDee Brown, optician.

WWW:What song or album is playing on your store's sound system right now?
Toelken: Los Amigos Invisibles from Venezuela (they're DeeDee's latest discovery). After going to a live show at Neumo's she can't get enough of the mix of disco, funk, and Latin rhythms. It makes for a happy atmosphere and you might catch her moving to the grooves.

What was your first job? How does it compare to your job now?
My first job was retailing my own artwork and furniture. Amy worked as a model, and DeeDee was in management at a casino. Oddly enough our early careers all tie into our current positions: I'm working on designs for eyeglasses, lenses, and displays; Amy has a brilliant design sense; and DeeDee has amazing business acumen (not to mention she's the best optician I've ever worked with).

What's your favorite thing in the store right now? Why?
The Baybridge frames by Zero G. It's a combination of flexible, light titanium and red acetate in a modified cat-eye shape: smart and gorgeous. The Luban by Cody Air in brushed silver—very Machine Age and art deco—is my current frame. 

Image: Kirby Ellis

Where do you shop when you're not at your store?
I try to support local businesses whenever possible. I like Goodwill for deals and City Hardware for all the stuff you forgot at Home Depot. Also: Ligne Roset for amazing furniture; Queen Anne Dispatch for clothing and your PO Box (odd combo but it works); and Stuhlberg's on Queen Anne for housewares—Meghan and staff are fantastic.

What do you love about your store's neighborhood? 
South Lake Union is really what I think Seattle embodies. The mountains, lake, boats, Seattle Center, and downtown skyline all seem to meet here. There is a lot of construction, but I really like the transformation from industrial warehouse to thriving urban hub.

What nearby, coffee shops, etc do you recommend?
Cafe Vita in Lower Queen Anne has unbelievably good coffee. I also like to grub on Serious Biscuit for breakfast, Bustle Caffe for a quick lunch, and I love Fare Start, great food variety and you're helping the students get ahead. For relaxing, Classique Queen Anne Spa and Vitality Medi Spa. And to clean up, Peter Park at Dexter Dry Cleaners is right next door.

What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened in your store?
If you're talking about Bigfoot sightings and UFOs, nothing yet. What's really amazing, however, is the development going on in the area. You need to come down and take a look.  

 

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