Selecting eyeglasses can be a daunting experience when considering all the determining factors that go into the decision. Optical Alternatives, Fairfield's newest eyeglass retail shop at 2480 Black Rock Turnpike, in the White Birch Plaza across from Swanson's Fish Market, offers an array of eyeglasses and a professional to guide a customer through the process.

Licensed optician and store manager Glenn Bemus offers that "unique vision" so important in making the right selection that involves style, durability and comfort.

Optical Alternatives, which is owned by Arvid Brandstrom, offers 1,025 square feet of retail space designed with comfort in mind, as customers can easily meander around the shop and sit in elegantly appointed room settings as they go through the process of selecting an eyeglass frame. As with its stock of eyeglasses, Optical Alternatives offers a setting rich in style and comfort.

Both Brandstrom and Bemus grew up in Westport and are graduates of Staples High School.

Alternatives is the operative word here, as Bemus takes pride in touting the vast stock, now approximately 700 frames, which will increase to 1,000, he said. In addition to the wide selection, Bemus emphasized the shop's price point, which he said is 20 to 30 percent "below the manufacturer's suggested retail."

How can Optical Alternatives price its eyeglasses at this level? Bemus, who has worked in the industry for the past 27 years, said he buys directly from the manufacturer and then passes along the savings to his customers, who can buy a pair of glasses ranging in price from $99 to $999.

"Eyeglass stores are traditionally low, medium, or high end," Bemus said.

He and owner Brandstrom identified a need for an eyeglass store which offers the consumer alternatives at every price point. After months of research, they identified numerous frame companies willing to sell at factory-direct prices. To purchase the best product for the lowest possible price, frame samples from around the world were obtained and inspected by Bemus for quality and pricing.

Optical Alternatives offers prescription eyewear, prescription sunglasses and non-prescription sunglasses. The store features classic conservative styles to fashion-forward frames. Bemus sees his role as having a dual purpose: "To provide unparalleled customer service, and to ensure that each prescriptions filled with absolute precision."

Bemus's depth of knowledge about eyeglasses is evident as he moves quickly around the room selecting eyeglass frames and talking about the style and durability of the various frames that offer a range of style to accommodate "a big man or a petite woman," he said. He held up a frame by Biggu, a brand appropriately named to suggest that, yes, "It is geared towards the big man."

Another eye-catching brand is Lafont from Paris. Bemus gently held a Lafont frame to display its attractive panther pattern complemented with a leather "temple." For customers looking for high styling, he can offer eyeglasses designed with rhinestones.

Other popular eyeglass brands include Coach, Scandinavian Eyewear, Pro Design, Eye Eye Denmark, MODO, Intrigue, Koali and You's, which offers styling with mesh lace.

In selecting his frames to show how distinctive they are, Bemus held a pair of eyeglass frames that had one color on the face of the frame and a second color on the back; for example, a tortoise color was paired with purple. At certain angles, a person could see the purple highlighting the frame for a distinctive look.

Bemus also noted the tri-laminated eyeglass styles, a relatively new process in which laser cuts into the frame offer a three-dimensional effect.

As Bemus walked around the room from one showcase to another, he took out a Visiochoix, a Lucite wand with a magnifying lens for customers to place before their eyes when they are trying on eyeglasses. He explained that the Visiochoix is an important tool in the shop to help customers see how they look in a pair of glasses.

When Optical Alternatives opened recently, local resident Melissa Masch was Bemus's first customer. No surprise. Masch followed him to his new location from his previous employer.

"He's very bright," she said, commenting on Bemus's knowledge as an optician. "He really knows his stuff."

Masch said she is "very, very nearsighted and if her eyeglasses are not mde correctly, both in framing and prescription, she gets terrible migraine headaches."

She has prism in her eyeglasses that help regulate the angle of light, she said.

During a recent tour of Optical Alternatives, Bemus entered the rear work area that includes a variety of equipment in which Bemus can install the lens right into the frames, thus giving him complete control of the optical center. Also, with other machines, he can trace the size and shape of the lens to the frame.

"We have the ability to control the optical placement. The goal is accuracy and no distortions," he said.

Optical Alternatives also offers occupational lens. For example, an architect's occupational lens would be applicable to reading blueprints.

"We design a lens to correspond to the working distance," said Bemus, who has board-certified licenses for ophthalmic dispensing in New York and Connecticut.

It was during the economic downturn last year that Bemus and Brandstrom decided "to search out quality frame suppliers offering discounts in order to make fashionable glasses available to consumers at an affordable price."

Free adjustments are always available seven days a week, regardless of where the eyeglasses were purchased.

Optical Alternatives is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; (Thursdays until 7 p.m.); Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information, call 203-372-2010 or visit http://opticalalt.com