Photo by Stephanie Colgan
In a tight-knit neighborhood with its own butcher, baker, bookstore, and co-op, it seemed odd to Julie Hansen that Linden Hills didn’t have its own optical shop. True, there’s no shortage of places to buy eyeglasses in the Twin Cities, but one of the reasons why so many independent optical boutiques thrive, even when glasses are sold for less at the mall or a big-box discounter, is service. Specs are an intimate, see-and-be-seen purchase, and as a shopper, you want to know that the frames truly fit your face and that if you happen to accidentally sit on them on a Sunday, someone competent will be available for repairs.
That’s why Hansen’s cell phone number is on her business cards. She lives just minutes away from her new shop, Owl Optical, at 43rd and Upton, and has every intention of opening the store during off- hours when customers are in need.
Owl Optical already feels like it’s been part of Linden Hills for years. Hansen runs the store with her husband, Chris, an art director. Mishka, their Siberian husky, is the greeter. This feels like destiny for the couple—they met at the Spectacle Shoppe, where Hansen worked during college. She sold him a pair of black plastic Lafonts, and they never looked back.
Hansen has worked for both eyewear boutiques and chains over the course of 20 years, but it was the ordeal of buying glasses for her 4-year-old son that convinced her to open a shop of her own. “I had to spend over $500 to get him really great optics,” she says. Owl Optical has an extensive kids section and packages that start at $99 with top-of-the-line lenses. “I’ve worked hard to make sure our prices match even the big chains,” Hansen says.
What Owl has that no competitor in town—or anywhere else in the Midwest—can claim is Moscot, an exclusive brand favored by four-eyed movie stars including Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. Owl also features frames by fashion designers Jason Wu and Derek Lam as well as a line designed specifically for petite faces. “Glasses are like jeans,” Hansen says. “Anything is in as long as it fits you.” Same goes for the shop, which fits the neighborhood like the perfect frame. 4318 Upton Ave. S., Mpls., 612-367-4106, www.owloptical.com —A. K.