Downtown hosts 9five eyewear


9Five offers several styles of eyewear designed by the brand’s graphic designers. Photo credit: Richard Lomibao

Franchesca Walker

At first glance, the wide range of glasses displayed in the center of the store is visible when stepping into the 9five Eyewear store in downtown San Diego. Framed pictures of musicians, artists and the 9five skate team wearing 9five glasses are displayed on the teal green walls. Encased by the register is a pair of Air Jordan XX8 sneakers alongside a pair of limited edition sunglasses designed by 9five.

The 9five store carries original designs constructed by the brand’s graphic designers. Since it opened in 2013, the shop has expanded and supplies the latest eyewear, apparel, and accessory releases.

In 2008, 9five eyewear was birthed. It began in co-owner and brand manager Jay Cabauatan’s garage where the 9five team worked long days and nights designing, shipping merchandise and developing the brand.

Co-owner and creative director Mike Metcalf said 9five was originally conceived as a clothing brand. However, he switched ideas and focused on eyewear because at the time he thought the industry had too many clothing brands.

“I felt apparel was too saturated at the moment. A lot of t-shirt brands were popping up at the same time. I transferred the whole concept to eyewear because that market seemed contradictory in the sense that there’s not a ton of eyeswear brands. There wasn’t at the time, but now it seems like there kinda is,” Metcalfe said.

Since it launched, the brand has been a success and has been recognized for its style catering to skateboarding and street wear.

“Our designs are core to what our brand is about. 1995 was a very influential year for all of us. That’s why we named the company 9five. It’s kind of an ode to the year,” Cabauatan said

He continued to say the owners also met in 1995, during their high school years.

Several celebrities and athletes have worn 9five products such as rappers Mac Miller and Kid Cudi. Also having collaborated with multiple brands such as Jordan Brand, Rastaclat and Diamond Supply Co.

Metcalf explained it was easy to open the Downtown store, “For us that was a pretty easy move in. It’s right next door to a store that we’ve sold to.” From there, Metcalf and Cabauatan decided it was the right location for them. They built the store from the ground up by installing wooden floors, painting the walls and an array of visual displays.

Josh Specks has been working in the store since May of this year. Specks explained the difference between working at the shop than a bigger company like Sunglass Hut.

“We’re more of a destination location rather than just having passer-by’s like in a mall retail store would have. In mall shops you’ll get about 100 people come in every day. They’re only converting about 10 percent of them to buy something, where as our store, almost everyone that comes in buys something just because they’re coming here for (the products),” Specks explained.

He said the top selling product is the Watson frame glasses. “The frame that’s gonna sell the most is the Watson because all of our frames are unisex, but the Watson tends to look good on either male of female,” Specks said.

He added that they sell more because of their size, “Its kind of a safer frame, its not too big or small, and the width is good because a lot of times the width of a frame can determine if that’s what someone wants.”

During the summer, the 9five store was renovated and expanded to showcase more selections designed by the brand. Moving past the glasses in the store, the Novem Standard chains and bracelets dressed in gold and black are displayed on the left side. Encased at the register are the IXV watches, and the screen printed apparel doesn’t go unnoticed centered in the store.

Metcalf said opening the store has greatly impacted the brand since they began. He also explained that not many people knew about the brand before opening this location. However, since it opened, more people are aware of 9five.

“Since we opened it, people know us from the store, which is weird to me because one location seems insignificant in the grand scheme but it seems to have more impact than what I initially thought,” Metcalf added.

9five is located at 703 8th Ave. and is open Monday-Saturday, 11-7:30 p.m., and Sunday 12-6 p.m.