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Racked Reviews: Morgenthal-Frederics

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Racked's reviews are penned by Aaron Bernstein, a.k.a. The Shophound. Today, he checks out the eyeglasses at Morgenthal-Frederics in Soho.

Photos, Krieger 09/10/07

There comes a certain point when one has to accept that the twelve-year-old eyeglass frames one has been wearing need an update, even if they were the eyeglass frames of 1995. That is what took us to Morgenthal-Frederics. There is no shortage of eyewear to be had in Manhattan, even as Lasik surgery reduces the number of people who actually need glasses. Morgenthal-Frederics came about in the late 1980s when forward-thinking licensed optician Richard Morgenthal purchased venerable Frederics Opticians on Madison Avenue. As their own inventive frame designs began attracting attention, the company developed its own line, which blossomed as the designer sunglass business boomed. While Morgenthal-Frederics still carries other brands in their five New York locations, their own label predominates.

We walked into the West Broadway location knowing we needed new glasses, but having no idea what we wanted. We soon discovered that choosing frames for prescription glasses is entirely different from selecting sunglasses, something we have, unfortunately, become too good at. “Metal or plastic?” our salesperson asked, and quickly pulled out a selection of frames we never would have considered ourselves. After discarding a few options, out came a sleeker pair in dark natural buffalo horn, Perfection with a capital P at over $1,000. Ouch. One of the hazards of Morgenthal-Frederics presents itself. The same style in black plastic appeared at a (relatively) more reasonable $295, which fit our needs perfectly. All this happened in under 10 minutes.

If you are looking for discount frames, then this is not the store for you, and with ever more branches from Selima and Robert Marc, M-F is no longer the only game in town for high-style frames, but as they were among the first, they are still among the best. It turns out that it is really expertise that sets them apart from the pack.

What we loved: The company has a great sense of design but also offers more classic styles as well. Not every pair is a “statement” frame. The sales staff has an excellent eye for matching frames to faces. Connoisseurs will appreciate rare materials like genuine horn and tortoise shell.

What it lacked: This is no bargain house, but there is an annual sale. You won’t find the same widely distributed brands you see everywhere else, which is more of a plus, come to think of it.

Décor: The company is very proud of its David Rockwell designed interiors based on “an eccentric slant on Shaker architecture”. It’s slightly eccentric but the opposite of your typical clinical optical store.

Service: Efficient and fast. Style issues aside, our ophthalmologist highly recommended their lens-making quality.