Lucas Lopez might not have your lenses "in about an hour," but he does guarantee competitive, affordable prices in a family-owned shop with local art hanging on the walls.
Vision Eye Art, a hybrid optical shop and art gallery, opened in 2005 in the Riverwest neighborhood. For two years, Lopez – and his wife and business partner Suzanne Knight – rented the Center Street space. In 2007, after the former owner passed away, the couple purchased the building.
The shop offers contemporary glasses crafted in the United States and Europe by designers like Bebe, Geoffrey Beene, Kenneth Cole, Hummer and more. Prices are in the low-to-mid range.
"In this neighborhood, there’s a need for affordability, and since I don’t have much overhead, I can afford to provide top quality optical services at a low price," says Lopez.
Lopez, 58, is an optician with 35 years of experience. He learned the trade while working in Europe after he got out of the army. Lopez, who was born in Puerto Rico and speaks both Spanish and English, traded English lessons with an optomitrist for the chance to learn his trade.
However, because Lopez is an optician and not an optometrist, customers must get their eyes examined first, and then bring their prescription to Lopez. He also orders contacts with a current prescription.
The on-site art gallery features original art by a variety of Riverwest artists, including Jason Sterling and Jesse Johnson. Lopez, who has painted since he was 7 years old, features a lot of his own work in the gallery, too, including a line of bracelets made from forks.
The gallery rotates art every three months and is open for Gallery Day & Night, Art Walk and during regular business hours.
Lopez says that when he decided to combine his two interests, optometry and art, he knew Riverwest would be the ideal location for such a unique business.
"People in Riverwest are always ready for something a little funky, a little different," he says.
Lopez moved to Milwaukee in 1979 after he came to visit a friend. "I thought I was stopping here for just a minute, but I never left," he says. "Now I meet people all the time who moved all over the planet, but came back to this place."
Knight is an artist, too, who paints interior walls and murals. She also keeps the books and handles the insurance and inventory for Vision Eye Art.
Knights’ nose sculptures / eyeglass holders are for sale at Vision Eye Art. Lopez and Knight married in 2001. They couple has two daughters.
"We're a family-owned business," he says.
Lopez says despite the poor economy, his business remains consistent. He says owning the building and being able to purchase frames in large quantities help him pass savings down to the customer. Word of mouth has helped him survive, too.
"It’s always been just enough (business) to keep me here," he says. "I offer personal care, personal service and top quality at very reasonable prices. I’m here to provide a service, not to gauge the world."
Other independent eyeglass shops in Milwaukee:
1568 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 221-7055
4314 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 481-0868
Optix on Downer
2634 N. Downer Ave., (414) 964-3125
806 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 276-7217
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.