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Warby Parker debuts first Philly store on Saturday


The trendy eyewear company Warby Parker will officially open its first full-size store in Center City at 11 a.m. Saturday, a company spokeswoman confirmed.

The store at 1523 Walnut St. is in the former space of Le Bec-Fin restaurant.

The company said in a statement that the store would offer its Roosevelt Collection, featuring, appropriately, the Roosevelt – one of the first frames Warby Parker designed – and available in Sandalwood Matte, Mallard Green and Earl Grey, on opening day.

As an enticement to visit the store, the company said, those colors will be sold exclusively at the store, not online.

Warby Parker is part of a wave of retailers that began life online but have begun to develop a brick-and-mortar presence in major U.S. cities.

The stores are meant to create what the retail industry calls an "omni-channel strategy" to reach shoppers from a website and in-store visits, and for the two to complement one another.

Men's apparel retailer Bonobos, which sits two doors from Warby Parker at 1519 Walnut St., opened last fall and shares a similar pedigree. It, too, began as an online company, opened a flagship store in New York City, and has been expanding into American downtowns.

Warby Parker was conceived in 2010 by four students at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School: Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa, Jeffrey Raider, and Andrew Hunt.

The concept started in Blumenthal's Center City apartment, where he laid out eyeglasses for people to come and check out. It took off rapidly after the students graduated and has not slowed down. The brand added offices in New York and Nashville, and has since opened nearly 50 stores across the country, plus two in Canada.

Until this Saturday, Warby Parker had only a tiny showroom in the Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction building in Old City on North Third Street. It has four shelves lined with Warby Parker glasses to try on that start at $95 per pair.

The new space on Walnut Street measures 2,360 square feet and spans two floors.

Larry Steinberg, executive vice president at commercial real estate firm CBRE Inc., who represented the landlord and tenant in the deal, said Monday that Center City continues to compete with King of Prussia for top-quality retailers. "Warby Parker gives us the ammunition we need to tell the story of the strength of Rittenhouse Row," he said.