I bought my first pair of Moscot glasses back in 2002, after wandering into the Orchard St. location on my first trip to New York City. Back then the first floor was a fairly unremarkable retail space that seemed to cater mostly to the Puerto Ricans that still outnumbered hipsters in the neighborhood at that time. But the upstairs was another matter. It hadn't changed much since the 1950s, and up there the fourth generation of Moscots were selling the same eyeglasses their grandfather Sol designed long ago from what seemed like the same wood and glass display cases:
I like the first pair of glass eyes in the second row: "Do you have something that bloodshot in more of a hazel?" At some point in the last few years (under Kenny Moscot's leadership of the company), things seem to have really taken off. The first floor shop stopped selling third-party designer frames and was transformed into a gallery/performance space. The brand has become well known around the world; it was even recently featured at Colette in Paris. There's even a dry-erase board with the names of celebrities who've chosen Moscot eyewear above the counter:
Everyone from Daniel Day Lewis to Mary Kate Olsen to Cee-Lo is wearing these affordable old-school frames originally designed by and for the Jews of the Lower East Side. That guy behind the counter is Frank. He was very helpful in selling my wife a pair of sunglasses and ordering me another pair of my favorite frames (in tortoise this time). He even tightened up a pair of sturdy old frames that had been loosened by five years of little grabby hands (for free). I know Moscot is not some unknown company, but I still think its story is inspiring. It shows how one small family-owned business has been able to adapt and persevere and eventually thrive in the era of big chains by taking advantage of its own heritage and the thirst for authenticity among a certain set of consumers. Because so many businesses like this once existed everywhere, and have been lost, I think now there's a lot of opportunity for those that managed to stick around.