Hills & Gardens: Eyeglass Specialists Come Home

April 4, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Trudy Whitman

What Russ & Daughters is to smoked fish and Barney’s is to men’s fashion, Moscot is to eyewear. The business, a branch of which recently opened on Court Street in Cobble Hill, was begun by family patriarch Hyman Moscot, who arrived on the Lower East Side in 1899 from Eastern Europe, putting food on his table by selling ready-made eyeglasses from a pushcart on Orchard Street.

“In those days, you just tried on glasses until you found a pair that helped you see better,” explained Dr. Harvey Moscot, Hyman’s great-grandson, namesake, and owner and president of the business. “It was so different from the careful examinations and precise measurements standard today.”

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Four generations of Moscot men have demonstrated dedication and flair when it comes to serving customers and growing Moscot opticians. The first retail shop was established on Rivington Street as the pushcart era ended. Then it was on to 118 Orchard Street, where one of NYC’s three shops remains to this day. Harvey, a licensed optometrist, and his younger brother Kenny opened the second Moscot’s on 14th Street. Kenny died prematurely two years ago — a heartbreaking loss for his brother — and Harvey now runs Moscot with the help of Wendy Simmons, his co-president.

Pinpointing Brooklyn as the site for the third Moscot shop was a matter of “returning to our roots,” Harvey Moscot remarked. “All of my relatives were born and raised here,” and the business is underpinned by pride in “tradition and legacy.”

Because of this legacy, the quintessential Moscot pair of spectacles is designed to sing out loud — it’s a very bold, heavy-frame look made famous by entertainers such as Buddy Holly, Woody Allen, and Johnny Depp. Although these styles are retro chic now, Moscot Originals never lost their appeal and have been wholesaled around the world for some time. (“Italy loves Moscot,” Harvey observed. “Italy’s a country that appreciates generational businesses.”)

More refined versions of the Originals can be found in Moscot’s Spirit line. “These are thinner, less bold, more wearable frames,” Harvey Moscot explained, “although the Originals never stopped selling.” Rounding out the collection is Moscot Sun — six new styles introduced each year in March to make sure customers are ready for summer.

Highlighting Moscot’s dedication to “heritage, fashion, and humor” is the latest line of metal frames — Moscot Metal. To launch the Metal campaign, Harvey tapped friends and acquaintances in the music industry who served as models for the eyewear. Beards, piercings, tats, and cleavage abound in the print and Internet ads highlighting the new collection and in the photographs that are currently decorating the shops. The photo shoots were all done in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at Duff’s bar — a heavy metal hangout.

Moscot is devoted to fashion and quality, but, most important, to healthy eyes. All Moscot sites offer full-service eye care, overseen by a team of licensed doctors of optometry. These professionals also specialize in fitting contact lenses.

Because of his commitment to better vision and healthy eyes for denizens of the city where his forebears prospered, Harvey Moscot founded a non-profit organization called Moscot Mobileyes. Mobileyes brings eye care professionals to underserved areas of the city for eye exams and, when necessary, free eyeglasses. Among the groups that have benefited from these services are the Boys’ Club of New York and the DOE Fund.

Moscot is at 159 Court Street; 212 647-1550; [email protected] The shop is open seven days a week, with eye exams available Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, mainly by appointment.

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