‘I Still Pinch Myself’: Optometry Practice and Eyewear Boutique ‘Look New Canaan’ Opens on Forest Street


Dr. Jennifer Stewart, owner of Look New Canaan at 21 Forest St. Credit: Michael Dinan

Dr. Jennifer Stewart had owned an optometry practice in Norwalk for a dozen years when she sold it in 2022 and for about 18 months focused on industry work—speaking, consulting, writing and virtual presentations—as well as on her two young boys, now eight and 11 years old.

“I wanted to be a room mom and go on field trips,” Stewart recalled with a smile Wednesday morning from the comfortable, modern and welcoming retail floor of her brand-new optometry practice on Forest Street.

“So I did that and I wasn’t sure what I’d do, and then I started to miss patient care,” she said. “I started to miss all my patients and being in an office. I teach practice management and I teach business. I teach optometrists how to be better business people, but I missed being in a business, and decided that the one thing I haven’t done in optometry is a cold start. I’d bought into a practice, but I’d never opened my own. So the idea came to do this.”

That was last summer, and “this” is Look New Canaan, a full-service optometry practice and eyewear boutique 21 Forest St. (Heritage Square, parking behind Green + Tonic next door). 

A New Paltz, N.Y. native who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and a doctorate of optometry from New England College of Optometry in Boston, Stewart opened last Monday.

“I drive down the street and I see our space, and I still pinch myself that this has happened,” she said. “I walk in here and I’m just proud of what we did. I had a vision of what I wanted to look like. I didn’t want it to look like the typical eye doctor office. I don’t think it does. I really also leaned into the design a lot. The design was super important to me. The stone wall was here. The metal was all here. So I designed everything to reflect that, and then we also are proud of our New Canaan community, so we brought in a Midcentury Modern feel as well.”

Look New Canaan provides comprehensive eye care—eye exams, annual visits, well care and emergency visits—for patients from school-aged kids through grandparents.

From “The Look Collective,” these frames are called “The Jennifer.” Dr. Jennifer Stewart said: “We have a couple of different models. These were all designed by me, the shapes and the colors. We also have one that’s in a matte finish, so it’s hand-polished. They’re also truly bespoke, so if somebody likes a shape but it’s not the right fit for them, we can make them bigger, we can make them smaller. We can do anything. Truly, these are handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces.” The price point on the frames is $325 not including the lenses. That is “a very well-priced frame for being a totally customized, handmade piece,” Stewart said. “Each one of them says ‘The Look Collective’ on it and they are made in the U.S.A.” Credit: Michael Dinan

“We provide beautiful eyewear—glasses and sunglasses,” Stewart said. “But we have a real focus on independent eyewear, not mass-produced. Not things that you can find everywhere. I picked every frame in here. And I really focus on working with small companies that have a story, and understanding why they pick certain colors and shapes and styles and hearing from them what makes them different. … We have sunglasses for sports and sunglasses for fun and fashion. I also created my own line of eyewear. That’s been a dream. I’ve always wanted to do that. It’s called ‘The Look Collective.’ It’s actually handmade by a third-generation optician in Utah. I designed the shapes. He handmade them.”

And many of those already have sold, she said. Look New Canaan also fits patients with distance or multifocal contact lenses.

“I also am a certified MiSight fitter, which is the only FDA contact lens approved to slow down the progression of myopia or nearsightedness,” she said. “Really helpful for kids who have prescriptions that are changing. And a lot of parents say, ‘I wish I had that when I was a kid,’ because people always ask, what can I do to help my kids not get worse? And we’ve always said there’s not much you can do. But now there is a contact lens that actually slows that down. So I’m proud to do that.”

Stewart—who has come to know New Canaan very well, as a Rowayton resident and as someone whose husband grew up here—also has quickly become involved in the community. Look New Canaan is a member business of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce.

When asked about the new optometry practice and eyewear boutique, the Chamber’s executive director, Laura Budd, said, “We are so pleased that Jennifer chose New Canaan to open her new practice in. Her patients are dedicated and we know her business will bring some new faces into town. Look New Canaan is a terrific addition to the community.”

Look New Canaan is at 21 Forest St. (Heritage Square). Parking is in the private lot behind Green+Tonic. Spots are also available on the street or next to the Post Office. Credit: Michael Dinan

When she began looking for commercial spaces last summer, Stewart said she was seeing places in Darien and New Canaan, and ultimately chose this town because of “the community.”

“It’s just being able to see people walking by and the way that the community supports local business,” she said. “I think that’s so rare and so appealing as a small business. And how New Canaan really is a small business town. It’s not chains, it’s not these huge stores, but it’s small businesses with signs out front. And it’s people that live in the community and that are proud to support their local businesses. And then when I saw this space, I knew. I said, ‘I want to have it.’ ”

She does, and under a 20-year lease. 

“We’ll be here for a very long time,” she said.

In just two weeks, the response from New Canaanites has been very strong.

“It’s been busy,” Stewart said. “During construction, people were coming in all the time, and there’s been a lot of interest because the space has been vacant for so long. So I think people were genuinely interested in what was going in here. We were deliberately quiet about it and we didn’t put anything out until we were ready. … A lot of the local businesses have already booked exams or come in. So people are genuinely curious and excited and as the weather gets nicer, I think we’ll see more.”

Meanwhile, Stewart said she and her staff “are eating our way through the local restaurants.”

“We support our Forest Street neighbors—it’s a really tight community here,” she said. “It’s unique. We’ve had gelato, we have been to Locali, we go to Green and Tonic, we go to Greenology, Gates, Tequila Mockingbird. My team has had after-work margaritas, they had sushi. So we’re excited to be part of this little microcosm community here on Forest Street.”

Asked about her long-term vision for Look New Canaan, Stewart said, “I just want to become the destination of eyewear and I hope to really learn and meet everybody in New Canaan.”

She continued: “I think we’re meeting so many people every day, but I want to be the place that people pop in when they’re walking through town and even just come in and sit here and say hi or wave through the window. I’m excited to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce.”

And for local families who are curious about the optometry services and eyewear, she said, “Come to us for a unique experience.”

“This was designed to be different,” Stewart said. “We are not a quick in and out. Our goal is to really acclimate to the community and provide a service that I don’t think exists. I want to become the eyewear destination of New Canaan and Fairfield County, where if you value quality service, quality product, quality eye care and eyewear that you won’t get anywhere else, that’s what we’re here for. And I don’t think I could have done this 10 years ago. I think, with the experience of owning a business, the experience of being in the optical industry for so long, I had the time and reflection to really create an authentic practice and to create something I don’t think exists.”

Stewart also loves people and patients, she said.

“I love taking care of people,” she said. “But I also love seeing them have beautiful eyewear on their face and be really excited about what they’re wearing and feel good about themselves. So that’s what I want people to know about us, is that I designed this to be different. … And I want people to walk out of here going, ‘Wow, that is the best eye appointment I’ve ever had because I’ve never experienced anything like that.’ ”

Look New Canaan at 21 Forest St. (here on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn) is open 8:30 a.m .to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact info here.

One thought on “‘I Still Pinch Myself’: Optometry Practice and Eyewear Boutique ‘Look New Canaan’ Opens on Forest Street

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *