by Wendy Schneider
The spectacular designer eyewear on display may initially lure a first-time visitor into Westdale Optical Boutique, now in its twenty-fourth year, but it’s no secret that the real reason behind the store’s success is Stephanie McLean, a woman of exquisite taste, for whom nothing is more important than seeing her clients leave looking and feeling fabulous.
Why has eyewear become such an essential fashion accessory?
It’s very simple. A good pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses makes you look and feel amazing — it enhances your look and, subsequently, your mood! You could be wearing a white T-shirt and ripped jeans with some flip-flops, but when you’ve got a great pair of glasses on, the whole look is elevated. Glasses are unique because, for many people, it is the first thing they put on in the morning. Why not start the day feeling fabulous?
Describe a typical customer experience.
When people are welcomed into the store, without even thinking about it, a frame will pop into my head! I’ll assess their features, and, because I hand-select all the frames, I always know where to start. Clients love to play dress up before making their final choice. It is, however, often the first frame we put on that the client goes with. Sometimes the search offers more of a challenge but when we find the frame, it’s perfection.
How do you know when to push people beyond their comfort zone?
Most people come in with little to no idea of what they’re looking for, and then we take them on a journey. Choosing glasses should be fun and easy – and it is. If a client hesitates about a frame that I happen to know is incredible, then my challenge is in helping them see and feel the difference between good and great. The customer’s comfort is paramount but they inevitably return thankful that I pushed them to go for the fabulous look over mediocre. I always tell them: if it looks gorgeous on your face, it’s going to go with everything that you wear.
Your store has a very friendly vibe among the staff and customers. How does that happen?
It’s not just about the glasses. It’s about the people, the relationships and the trust. I am happy that we have a great sense of community in the store because we care about the experience and the satisfaction of every customer. Many times two complete strangers will give their opinion to each other because everybody wants to get in on the fun!
What qualities do you cultivate in your staff?
I am definitely looking for a sense of style, confidence and personality. They are a team, trained with the high standards that I maintain, who make shopping for glasses fun and easy. This is not your average store. This is not your average job. You kind of need to love being here.
Where do you buy your frames?
I select the handmade frames from all over the world — from the classic to the cutting edge of fashion. When I’m selecting the frames, I like to have fun! I will always pick a few that I know 99 per cent of my clientele will not wear. But when I put the frame on the one per cent that will, it’s an absolute show stopper.
Can someone on a budget find frames at Westdale Optical?
Absolutely! We’re happy to work with everybody no matter what price point they want to be in. We’re located beside McMaster University and other schools, so it’s not uncommon for a student, for example, to come in wanting to spend $200. We put as much thought and care into it as we do for the person whose budget allows for more. This encourages us to be even more creative. Regardless of budget, we make sure that the client leaves looking and feeling their absolute best because that is what we love to do!