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Ground Floor: Iowa City optical opens its 'store within a store'

Focus operates in the lower floor of Discerning Eye Optical

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IOWA CITY — An Iowa City-based optical shop hopes its store-within-a-store concept will bring in another demographic of customer, without the risk of opening a second location.

The luxury eyewear store Discerning Eye Optical opened the doors to its new location this past Wednesday in downtown Iowa City, exactly one week after moving from its previous location up the block.

The move — from a 3,000-square-foot space to one with 3,500 square feet — enables owner Joni Schrup to save on overhead costs while expanding with Focus, selling products and with pricing targeted to high school and college-aged customers — a demographic not typically seen in her luxury eyewear store, Schrup said.

“In this area we’re trying to market to a younger student population who would come in and shop before but couldn’t afford to buy things from us because they wanted something that was still great quality, but a little more affordable,” Schrup said.

Located in the basement of the store, Focus sells sunglasses and eyeglass frames from brands Brooklyn Spectacles, Mo eyewear and Tortoise & Blonde Eyewear.

The bottom store is laid out in three price points — the cheapest brands start at about $145 and the most expensive at $295. Schrup said she plans to offer the frames sold in Focus online within the next year.

“We had a fair amount of customers among the student population who would order glasses online, and then they would bring them in for us to adjust,” Schrup said. “We did, but it was like, ‘Why aren’t we catering to this crowd?’”

Schrup said she hopes to one day open the concept in independent locations in Cedar Rapids and in other college towns across Iowa.

She said opted to move Discerning Eye for Focus, as her lease in the previous location was up in September. She received the keys to the current shop on July 1, and construction began in mid-August. There are still some finishing touches to be completed on the building throughout the next several weeks.

Discerning Eye first opened in December 2005 and now has 10 staff members, including three who are certified by the American Board of Opticianry.

AT A GLANCE

Owner: Joni Schrup

Business: Focus

Address: 218 E. Washington St., Iowa City

Phone: (319) 338-6800

Website: discerningeyeoptical.com

Know a company that’s been in business for less than a year that’d be ideal for “The Ground Floor”? Contact Michael Chevy Castranova at michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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