Named after a scarlet macaw, Fabulous Fanny’s started out as an unnamed table at a New York City flea market 20 years ago. After a few years, co-owner Stanton Blackmer, along with his partner Ken Finneran, recognized the potential success in establishing a bona fide vintage eyewear business. In 2001, Fabulous Fanny’s opened its doors in Manhattan’s East Village, where it’s been going strong ever since.
SUNGLASSES: When you decided to transition from the flea market scene to a brick-and-mortar shop, how did you choose your East Village location?
STANTON BLACKMER: It took us a year to find a location. We tried to get a place in midtown near The Late Show with David Letterman. The theater industry has always bought from us, even when we were at the flea market, and we thought that would be a good base. But it was hard finding a landlord who could see that we might make a living out of vintage glasses. So we ended up in the East Village and it’s been an ideal location for us.
SG: What draws people to Fabulous Fanny’s?
SB: We’ve become a destination spot for people who know about us. And we make purchases from all around the globe, so people are always looking to see what we have that’s new. Because we’re close to New York University, we do get a young crowd, but we also get people who are aged 70 and 80 who keep coming back because they can’t find what they want anywhere else. I have one woman who comes up from Rio de Janeiro every year, and this is one of the first places she hits because she’s trying to find a particular Emmanuelle Khanh frame. I think she got one once from me, and doesn’t quite understand why I can’t come up with more!
SG: How do you establish your inventory?
SB: My customers are probably the best word-of-mouth advertising that I have, not just for customers, but for merchandise as well. I have customers who will call me and say, “Gee, I was just on eBay and there’s a collection I think you’d be interested in.” Or somebody will say, “My optician in the Midwest was so amazed at what I brought him from your shop, and he’s telling me he has stuff in his back room that he doesn’t know what to do with.” And there are places, like Old Focals in California, which do a lot of the same thing that we do, but I don’t think on quite the same scale. Sometimes we share information.
SG: What makes up your inventory?
SB: We have inventory that goes from the 1700s right up to the present time. We also do our own line of frames, frames we produce that we can no longer find. Let’s say there was a ‘60s’ frame that we thought was really great, and we can’t find it anymore—we’ll produce our own copy of it. I would say that probably about two-thirds of my merchandise is vintage, and the other third would be vintage-inspired. We do have some new sunglasses, too.
SG: Do you get requests for customized sunglasses from Broadway shows or other performance-based groups?
SB: I do rhinestone work on frames, and when Shrek the Musical was coming to Broadway, they came to me and said they wanted sunglasses for the Three Blind Mice. That was a thrill for me.