Unique Toronto-Based Optical Concept ‘Squint Eyewear’ Opens 4th Store Amid Expansion

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Back in 2003, Toronto entrepreneur and optician Amin Mamdani had a vision of creating an eyewear company to provide customers with exceptional service and a unique experience.

Today, Squint Eyewear is a burgeoning brand with four locations in the Toronto area and plans to continue to grow.

“We started in downtown Oakville and we saw great potential. At that time there was no premium high-end retailer for eyewear in Oakville at all,” said Mamdani, founder and President of Squint Eyewear.

“We are a preeminent eyewear retailer known in the industry as being one of the top destinations for premium brands in Canada. We differentiate ourselves as a destination for premium eyewear and services and everything we do is based on our vision of creating exceptional experiences through five facets.

“The first one’s hospitality. The second is service. The third one is knowledge, passion and experience of our staff. Fourth is store environment and design. And lastly artisanal products that are hand selected in buying trips to Europe and available only to a handful of retailers.”

Its four Toronto area locations are: Downtown Oakville  286 Lakeshore Rd. E.; Uptown Toronto  2501 Yonge St.; Bayview Village  2901 Bayview Ave.; and Royal Bank Plaza  200 Bay St.

The most recent opening in the Royal Bank Plaza is in PATH space which is a network of underground pedestrian tunnels, elevated walkways, and at-grade walkways connecting the office towers of Downtown Toronto. The unique and colourful space was designed by Gensler.

“We acquired the space that had been an existing optical store for over 20 years. The landlord was looking for a fresher retailer that was at the level of their premium clientele and basically we had the opportunity. We felt it was the right fit. We didn’t have a presence in the Downtown Toronto market,” said Mamdani.

“A lot of our clients who live in the neighbourhoods where we have other stores, namely Oakville, there’s a large population of Oakville professionals who work in the downtown core and a lot of other professionals who live in the Uptown Toronto area where we have a location. Over the years, they’ve commented that ‘it would be great if we could have a store close to our office where we could be serviced and we could take advantage of a high-end optical store like yours in the downtown area’.”

After opening initially in Oakville, Squint opened its second location in Uptown Toronto in 2013. In 2015, it opened its store in Bayview Village.

Stores range in size from 750 to 1,200 square feet.

All of the locations have an independent optometrist.

“We seek out locations where the clients are educated and are astute professionals who appreciate a superior level of service and experience. So we’re looking for markets where we can grow and build relationships with the community,” said Mamdani.

“We are prepared to grow again nationally if the opportunity arises. The fourth location is two months old. I need a little bit of breathing room. Deals today, I don’t think they happen as quickly as they used to. When I opened my Bayview months after I started thinking about my next steps and today I’m starting to think about my future – what can I do for next year and the year after.

“I’ve built an administrative back end of the store. We have the infrastructure to grow. Most optical retailers when they have a few stores and they’re independent high end tend not to have an infrastructure in place. Everything is done out of one location. What I’ve done is establish a head office and invested into systems so that there is the opportunity for growth.”

Mamdani said beyond the eyewear retailer’s experienced and knowledgeable staff one of its keys to success is its products. Brands it carries that are exclusive and only available to a handful of opticians include Chrome Hearts, Lindberg, Mykita, Matsuda, and Dita.

“And we work with the best lenses. Our lenses are either Zeiss or Nikon. Zeiss is a German make of lense and Nikon is a Japanese make,” said Mamdani.

“We are scouting for new areas always. But we’re looking for what I would call exclusive areas where we have a customer base who understands the upscale market and who wants that level of service and experience that they find in other industries but not in optical. So we truly separate ourselves from what I would say is the buzz that’s been going on for the last two, three, four years which is the packaged pricing where things are made Far East, lenses are not brand name, they tend to be something made overseas and it’s a package pricing at a price where it’s almost entry level.

“We separate ourselves to the point where our products and our service and our knowledge is bar none and we invest a lot into that.”

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