Noe Valley Voice June 2008

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular feature of the Noe Valley Voice, profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce the neighborhood's shadiest new retailer, a sunglasses boutique on 24th Street near Noe Street.

4010 24th Street

Noe Valley has a new destination for hip shades. Just don't expect to find the usual department-store suspects gracing this boutique's contemporary interiors and sleek shelves.

"It's one of our main pet peeves. We will not carry a designer if it has the logo on the temple," explains Dimitri Grunhauser, who with Olga Terry owns Glare, as well as eyewear store Spectacles for Humans, also on 24th Street.

Since opening the doors of their second storefront, in the former home of Primadona Skin Care--and before that, High Class Nails--on Easter weekend, Grunhauser and Terry, both Alameda residents, have offered a carefully chosen selection of premium frames from cult-worthy names like Linda Farrow Vintage, Ksubi, Thakoon, Beausoleil, and Dita. Prices range from $195 to $395, for limited-edition or otherwise special frames.

"We don't buy what salespeople tell us will sell. We follow our instincts and know what's real and what's a gimmick," says Grunhauser.

Eschewing the major fashion houses for smaller brands has won the new sunglasses shop and its older sister, Spectacles for Humans, attention on fashion blogs and popular shopping web sites like Grunhauser says customers from around the country often e-mail pictures of themselves and ask his advice on flattering frames.

The only major household name the shop carries is Ray-Ban, but Grunhauser and Terry are quick to stress that they only stock classics like Wayfarers, Shooters, and Caravans, in original or limited-edition colors. If their attention to the brands they carry sounds almost obsessive, that's because it is.

"There's really no sunglasses store for an intelligent consumer where you can get a cool pair of sunglasses and not wear a designer name on your face," says Grunhauser, an optician who began working in the eyewear industry shortly after moving to San Francisco in 1991. He operated BP Optical at a Valencia Street location for 10 years before relocating the store to 24th Street in 2006. In 2007, the store adopted its longtime tagline as its official name, Spectacles for Humans.

These days, if you don't find Grunhauser in one of the two shops, you're likely to spot him shuttling back and forth along 24th Street on his lavender and white 1985 BMX bike (all original parts, mind you).

Grunhauser sums it all up: "At a certain point, it stops being business. It's a hobby. When you work on something for years, this is the only way to sell it, to have brands that you're excited about."

Glare is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday frim 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

--Lorraine Sanders