“Alexandria has a very Georgetowny feel so the name does justice,” explains Holland-born Joost Voorthuis, 57, owner of the new Georgetown Optician Galleria (1110 King Street) in Old Town.
This location is the fifth in the DC metropolitan area the others in D.C., MD., and Tysons Galleria for the optician, who specializes in high fashion eye wear.
When the opportunity to buy an old vacant townhouse in Alexandria presented itself, Voorthuis went for it. “A lot of our customer base comes from Alexandria,” he said. “Now they wont have to cross the river.”
“This is a very precise business,” Voorthuis explained. “I dont stand for mediocrity.” Thats why he followed a path to high end fashion retail. His shop is where youll find the new designer collections Kieiselstein-Cord, Chrome Hearts, Theo, Oliver People and Retrospecs. Expect to shell out $250 to $900 for frames in addition to the prescription lens. An optician is on the premises, and they have their own finishing lab in Georgetown which enables them to turn out quality work relatively quickly. Remember to top your style with fashionable protective sunglasses as we head into spring and summer.
Voorthuis has seen the optics business change since he established his enterprise in 1978. “Its more fashion driven today. It was once more utilitarian,” he told me, his blue eyes peering through his green rims from the Paul Smith collection for Oliver Peoples. “The Hollywood crowd breaks in the new stuff. They, not the politicians, are the trend-setters in this business.” He continues: “We [the local customers] are still generally very conservative in our choices. My challenge is to introduce the people of Alexandria into eye fashion.”
As if the eye wear itself is not creative enough Chrome Hearts glasses are made from unusual materials including hand-stitched leather and rare wood from Africa Voorthuis has found an unusual use for his additional upstairs space. Hes converted it to an art gallery.
“Its interesting for me and my customers,” said Voorthuis, who describes himself as an art collector and “extremely eclectic.” He does his own interior design with the help of his son, Pierce, 21. They beautifully renovated the Alexandria shop and gallery and finished it in cherry wood.
Emerging artists are welcome to contact Voorthuis.
Displaying local art is his way of connecting and giving back to the community. The first exhibit at the Georgetown Optician Galleria called Double Vision figurative sculpture by this reporter and collage fantasies by Harvey Levine — opens with a reception, Thursday, April 19, and continues through May 2.