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New Store Opens In Linden Hills

Owl Optical takes space next to Great Harvest Bread Company

You might say that love is at the core of Julie Hansen's new Linden Hills store, Owl Optical.

Long before she and her husband opened Owl, Hansen was working part-time at the original Spectacle Shoppe while at college. One day, a man walked in with good-looking motorcycle boots, looking for a pair of glasses.

"I told him 'nice boots,'" Hansen said, with a smile. "We were married before I was out college."

13 years and two sons later, Hansen is still in the optical business, and still married to the same man in boots. 

"My husband and I always wanted to do our own thing," she said, explaining that with her youngest entering kindergarten this year, the timing was perfect to chase that dream.

"We thought about opening at 50th and France, but the rents were very high, and there are already a few optical shops there," she said. "We've always loved Linden Hills—the stores are unique, it's very neighborhod-y, and we got married at St Thomas Aquinas around the corner."

Hansen told Patch in an interview on Wednesday that she tried to pour all the lessons of her 17 years in the optical business into Owl, from the attention to unique customer needs—facial features that make traditional glasses hard to fit, for example—to having a lot of good-looking glasses at wide range of price points.

She's even giving out her cell number to clients, in case of after-hours eyeglasses emergencies. 

As a kid, Hansen said, her father strongly believed in fostering a strong work ethic in his children. So he made Hansen go out and get a part-time job at age 16.

She wound up working at Pearl Vision Express, training in as an optician. When she moved to Minneapolis for college, she got a job as an optician at the then-famous Spectacle Shop.

"They had all kinds of frames, and they were the first shop to really get into unusual marketing strategies, hosting parties at nightclubs and things like that," Hansen said.

Some of the store's marketing events were pretty adventurous. At one event at downtown Minneapolis' Gay 90's nightclub, Hansen got to meet porn superstar Ron Jeremy while modeling a set of black, full-eye contact lenses that gave her an extraterrestrial look.

"The whole thing was a little gross," she said.

While Hansen may not be about to bring adult film stars to Linden Hills, Hansen is planning to bring a bit of its creativity and fashion-consciousness. She recently signed a contract with designer frame-maker Moscot (think: "Johnny Depp's glasses") to become the first store in Minnesota to carry the specs.

"I saw them in fashion magazine recently, and I just loved them. That's how I found a lot of the brands I carry," she explained. 

At the end of the day, Hansen said, she still wants her store to feel welcoming to everybody—from the prices and range of glasses Owl will offer, to the books and kid's games on the shelves next to ranks of frames.

"I want people to be really comfortable coming in here and getting a great deal," she said. "My husband and I are both from small towns. We're very laid back and welcoming, and we want the shop to be like that, too."

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