Oakland residents might know about the little shop dubbed Phoenix Optical, which carries an incredible collection of deadstock vintage eyewear from the '50s through the '80s. Now, San Francisco folks can get their fix of the stellar frames as well, thanks to Optical Works' newest space, Fine Arts Optical, a 4,000-square-foot arsenal of eyewear on Valencia Street.
Before you head to the hangar-like space (located in the former Modern Times shop), a mini history lesson: Phoenix Optical owner Ray Ascher's family has been in the optical business for several generations. He tells us that his mother, Isabel Ascher, was a frame designer from the '30s through the '70s. She, along with her sister, reportedly helped design the first pair of iconic "Jackie O" glasses (!!!). Over the years, Ascher accumulated literally millions of frames, which Ray and his staff polish up and sell as never-worn vintage pairs at the Oakland location and now the new Valencia space.
Fine Arts Optical also carries gorgeous, one-of-a-kind frames made from bamboo, wood, and horn, making it an eyewear connoisseur's dream. But dreams, of course, don't come cheap! The vintage frames will run you around $200, while the drop-dead gorgeous buffalo horn frames fetch around $700 (or even more for the really specially ones). However, if any frame could make you shell out $700 for a pair of glasses, these gorgeous specimens would do it!
Fine Arts Optical, 888 Valencia Street (at 20th Street); 415-913-7414.
Refinery29 S.F. Editor Katie Hintz-Zambrano tries on a pair of Buddy Holly-style frames. Photo: Via Joanna Riedl