Volume 80, Number 9 | July 29 - August 4, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Cynthia Romero

Sunglasses on display at Artsee Eyewear.

With aesthetics, exhibits, eyewear store is artsy

By Cynthia Romero

From the moment you walk into Artsee Eyewear, nothing seems typical. For starters, there aren’t any white lab coats or stark bright lighting. Instead the lighting is the kind you’d find in an art gallery. That’s because the eyewear boutique doubles as a space for art shows, something owners Julio Santiago and Oleg Rabinovich wanted from the very beginning.

“I had just finished having dinner when I tripped on a basement door and I saw the ‘For Rent’ sign, and I immediately saw Artsee,” said Santiago. “I knew it would be a dark optical, the opposite of what other optical boutiques were.”

Lining an entire wall of the shop are chocolate bars — from the “Chocolate Cortés: A Family Tradition” art show — while colorful handcrafted frames from designers like Christian Roth, Face à Face, Anne et Valentin and Cutler and Gross are artfully displayed on clear shelves.

Jason Hart, an optician at Artsee Eyewear, said what makes the boutique unique is “all in the little details.”

“If you take a look around, we just don’t want people to come in, get their glasses and leave,” said Hart. “We want people to be inspired by the space and to really have a ball trying on different pieces.”

Hart smiled as he referred to Artsee Eyewear as one of the last “homegrown” businesses on the block.

“It was always Julio’s intention to make this sort of a museum setting as well as the eyeglass store setting,” he explained. “That, in my opinion, is an interesting juxtaposition of the healthcare field, because we really are all opticians and that’s a health-oriented business, but we also love high-end fashion eyewear.”

Santiago and Rabinovich, who opened their New York location in 2003, just launched a second location in Miami a month ago.

“We owe a lot to Robert Wennett, developer of 1111 Lincoln Road [a South Beach event space on the top floors of a parking garage], along with masterminds of Herzorg and De Meuron, because they worked with our landlord in New York when we were just opening,” said Santiago. “Adam Hayes and Mark Krockel of Open Shop in Tribeca designed our Miami location.”

Santiago described his entrance into the store as a “religious experience.” In fact, he believes the concept of mixing art with functionality has gained the boutique a loyal following.

“I see handcrafted designs. We really celebrate masters of eyewear design here,” said Santiago. “I believe that glasses or sunglasses direct you to a way of life, change your mood, dictate confidence and make you whole.”

Artsee Eyewear is located at 863 Washington St. and is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.artseeeyewear.com .

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