On Saturday, January 28th, as eyewear brand Warby Parker feted the grand opening of its sparkly Walnut Street storefront, seven demonstrators stood outside, pumping candy-colored signs into the air and doling out cards emblazoned with “FUWP.” While the rest of the city was dizzy with excitement over the brand’s arrival, the ragtag group picketed, imploring Instagram followers to take photos with a #FUWP sign and post them online with the corresponding hashtag; randomly selected winners would win a free pair of Philly EyeWorks specs. For a protest, it was kind of, well, cute.
Leading the resistance was Philly EyeWorks’s Clifton Balter, who first faced off against Warby Parker back in 2012, when the latter parked its school bus — a roving eyewear shop on a cross-country “class trip” — outside InnerVision, his Rittenhouse eyeglass boutique, for two consecutive Saturdays. Sales tanked during this time (falling to about half the average, Balter says), and his anger was stoked. Adding fuel to the fire: He then had to stand by and watch as Warby Parker’s profile skyrocketed. (Launched by Wharton students who soon fled Philly for NYC, the start-up quickly vaulted to unicorn status, achieving a $1.2 billion valuation.) Read more »