The Local Look: Labrabbit Optics

An independent eyewear shop that specializes in edgy contemporary and vintage frames, Coyote DeGroot’s Labrabbit Optics opened in 2010 with a sole owner and employee: DeGroot himself. We talked to DeGroot about why he chose Chicago for his small business.

Coyote DeGroot

Coyote DeGroot, owner of Labrabbit Optics.

Why did you choose Chicago?  Tell us about what it means to be a business in Chicago.

I’m originally from Wisconsin, so moving to Chicago was the next logical step to improve my quality of life. Chicago is a gigantic small town, quintessentially Midwestern, but with tremendous opportunity for anyone to start a business or platform of any type. The cost of living is comparatively inexpensive, and the city’s central location affords the luxury of convenient travel to the coasts. There’s always a hunger for something new here, and it makes my job exciting to be able to cater to those curious individuals. Chicago’s network of like-minded business owners has always been very supportive: They’ve been like a weird, hard-working, hard-playing family to me. Chicago rules, and it only gets better with time. I also take a lot of inspiration from the local food scene, which is among the best in the nation. If I’m not at the shop, I’m usually out exploring the ridiculous number of new restaurants that are opening here.

If you could go back in time before you became involved in running the business and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself?

I’d tell myself to charge more! People are absolutely willing to pay a premium for the exclusive products and excellent customer service that have made the shop famous. When I first started Labrabbit, I wanted to make everything a little too affordable, and actually received feedback telling me that my prices were too low. I’ve adjusted pricing schedules accordingly since then, but I still charge less than most other shops, which shatters a popular belief that independent businesses are more expensive than chain stores.

What are your next steps?

I’ve got a number of irons in the fire, but I’m very superstitious and never discuss my plans for the future.

We want to be in the know!  Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.

I’d recommend Vividbraille, a carefully curated menswear shop in Bucktown. Brock Wilsey is the proprietor and always stocks the coolest clothes, riding the fine line between urban wear and understated minimalism. Chicago has a dearth of places for men to buy interesting garments, and this spot is a true oasis. Brock himself is a gem too, always delivering personable and refreshingly direct service.

Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

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