An Interview with Miriam Lefkowitz of Vista Optical
Shopping for glasses can be a trying experience for anyone, but for a new oleh it can be even more daunting. How do you know you’re not being taken advantage of? How do you know you can trust the owner or the salesperson, especially when you don’t speak the language?
Vista Optical was founded to answer this need. Located in Jerusalem, Vista Optical is a boutique store offering name-brand glasses and contact lenses with superb customer service.
How did you get started?
We started out as the Contact Center 7-8 years ago, selling only contact lenses. We eventually built up a customer base, and Vista Optical opened its doors around three years ago.
What kind of glasses do you sell?
We currently offer mid- to high-range name-brand glasses, including Prada, Chopard, Mont Blanc, Fred, Swarovski, Roberto Cavalli, Silhouette, Minima, Teka, and many more. Our collection is the largest and most varied in the Jerusalem area. Some of our suppliers have told us that other top optical stores that they supply don’t have a selection like ours.
We constantly update it to ensure that our customers have access to the most up-to-date brands and styles. We stay on top of the very latest in high-end American and European fashions and import those styles from leading manufacturers across the globe. As a result of this emphasis on staying in fashion, we are the trend setters in the Israeli market.
We also carry a sizeable line of lower-priced frames for the more budgeted consumer. What we don’t sell, however, are the cheap discount frames you find at the mass-market chain stores. Our priority is quality—both in terms of our product and in terms of our service.
What does American-style service mean to your company?
We know that many American clients are often frustrated and disappointed with the way they are treated in many local stores. To us, American-style service means each customer is greeted and welcomed and treated with respect and professionalism from before the sale and for years to come.
It also means that we don’t hire just anybody to work with our customers. Our salespeople are hand-picked according to our strict standards. They need to speak English and understand fashion; you need to be able to trust that they won’t push you to buy something just because it’s in style. They recommend only glasses that are flattering to the specific client.
Can you give an example of a style that might not suit just anyone?
One of the latest styles is oversized frames. They are more popular in Europe, and part of the reason for that is that Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans, tend to have wider faces than our Jewish faces, and oversized frames are less flattering on narrower faces. They’re even more cumbersome and awkward-looking when the prescription is high.
What else do you consider when recommending a frame to a customer?
We also try to match the frame to the client’s lifestyle and culture. We want to help them stay true to who they are and how they like to express themselves, even if they choose something that’s not very standard or trendy. Whatever they choose, they will get top quality from us.
Tell us about your location.
Our store on Eli HaCohen Street features a beautiful showroom. We showcase our frames more like jewelry than like glasses. We also have an in-house optometrist who performs exams by appointment. He’s a very experienced doctor with his own private practice.
We have customers who come in from quite far and say it’s worth the trip for the service and selection we provide.
Tell us about the Chazon Ish’s glasses! How did you end up with them?
Yes, that’s by far our most prized item! We saw a small ad in a paper that there was going to be an auction of some of the Chazon Ish’s items, and decided to ask another glasses store if they wanted to go in on it together and buy his glasses. While there, we saw the price was going to be higher than we intended to spend, and managed to get through to a third store to invest as well. In the end we won the auction and purchased the glasses for over $20,000. The glasses circulate between our store and the other two stores that are in America, but they are more treasured here. (You can always call before coming to check if they’re in.) We have them in a display stand and many people come in to the store just to see them. We have even let some gedolim try them on.
How has the presence of these glasses influenced your business?
We feel it adds a spiritual element to our store. We have also found that people tend to be drawn to styles similar to those of the Chazon Ish’s glasses—the round frames with gold rims. I’ve heard people try them on and say, ‘Oh, that’s the Chazon Ish look.’ We are very humbled to have his glasses on display here.
Vista Optical is an optical boutique in Jerusalem that offers high-end name-brand glasses and contact lenses and American-style service. Visit their store at 18 Eli HaCohen Street, Jerusalem or contact them at 02-538-2217.