Experiential. Tangible. Intimate:
Uptown’s Insight Eye Care
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘So much of what people buy – and how they buy it – is determined by what they see on their screens,’ Neil Moser begins as we sit down to chat over coffee at Death Valley’s Little Brother in Uptown Waterloo. ‘Shopping online is convenient, to be sure,’ he goes on. ‘But when you’re investing in something that isn’t disposable, something handcrafted, online can be cold. Detached. Irreverent, even.’
Running his hand along a deep crease on the worn leather armrest of the chair he’s settled into, Neil speaks with conviction: ‘What I’m working toward every day is encouraging folks around these parts (and beyond) to make the effort to visit the shop in person. Not because they have to, but because they want to. And, in return, we’ll make the best effort to curate what, in our minds, are the most gorgeous boutique and handcrafted frames and sunglasses the world over. And,’ he adds, ‘present them in a way that’s purely experiential. Tangible. Intimate.’
The business he’s talking about? Insight Eye Care in Waterloo – where Neil is Director of Marketing and Sales. A boutique eyewear and optometry practice that has successfully worked to differentiate itself – not only in its own industry, but in the business community in general. ‘We do a lot to set ourselves apart,’ Neil tells me. ‘From the intense curation of our product lines to our collaborative marketing campaigns (where we work with and highlight like-minded Kitchener-Waterloo businesses), we’re constantly doing things to attract new customers – and keep our existing clientele intrigued.’
Clientele that span our region, of course. And the GTA, too. ‘Many of our clients drive down from Toronto,’ notes Neil, ‘which is a great compliment, in my mind.’ To be sure. And a measure of how successful Neil and his marketing team – including Troy Dettwiler and Nicole Wagler – have been in assembling a phenomenal compilation of frames and sunglasses their clients are not likely to find easily anywhere else.
Brands like Bruno Chaussignand – a southern French boutique eyewear company that Neil discovered in a little booth tucked away at a New York eyewear trade show. And Vinylize – a company from Budapest that specializes in handcrafted frames using recycled records. And Jean Philippe Joly – a passionate French designer Neil discovered wandering the halls of a trade show with just a backpack and three prototypes. And ROLF Spectacles from Austria – a family of architects and engineers who fabricate their own equipment to make their handcrafted, ethically-sourced wooden frames. And Blake Kuwahara – a designer from California who creates unique laminated frames handcrafted in Japan.
‘We take pride in the personal relationships we’ve built with boutique frame and sunglass designers like these,’ Neil remarks. ‘Many of them are businesses that are too small to have sales reps in North America so we visit them at various shows in Europe. And certainly too small,’ he adds, ‘to produce frames for the mass market. These frames can’t be everywhere and we’re honoured that these companies trust us to represent their collections in Canada.’ Which is why, over the past few years, Neil and the Insight team have invested time, money and energy to create specific marketing campaigns highlighting these brands – campaigns designed and delivered in collaboration with other local small businesses Neil also wants to promote.
Indeed, since 2011 Neil and his team have produced extravagant eyewear fashion shoots that have featured (or been in collaboration with) The Loop, Public Market, Auburn Vintage Clothiers, Oiseau Hair Salon, Together We’re Bitter, Carry-On Comics, Death Valley’s Little Brother and more. Shoots that are incorporated into Insight’s sleek website, on its marketing collateral across the community, and even on the promotional materials of the boutique brands Insight represents. (A selfless gesture, to be sure.)
‘I feel like small independent businesses need to stick together,’ Neil says. ‘Not everyone can afford to promote their companies on all marketing platforms. By collaborating with local companies we admire, we get to cross-pollinate each other’s messages and, in turn, reach new audiences across the region.’ A refreshing approach to marketing, to be sure. And one that’s certainly working for Neil and the Insight team. Don’t take my word for it, though. Visit Insight Eye Care for yourself – to experience what deliberate and diligent curation looks like. And feels like. In the flesh.