Local couples bring unique approach to sunglass sales at Del Mar Highlands


By Claire Harlin

Walking along the lower, west-facing sidewalk of the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, shoppers may notice a string of new specialty shops that have opened near the dancing fountain, including a bakery, a tea shop, and an olive oil store. It’s also hard to miss the new sunglass shop there, with it’s huge storefront sign and bright, white displays of hundreds of specs inside.

Sunglass Cabana, which is amid its grand opening, may seem like a basic eyewear shop, but it may actually take a stroll through the store to realize it’s a world away from the familiar chain sunglass retailers you see all the time, all over the country. Like many of its Highlands neighbors, Sunglass Cabana is locally owned by people who know their community and go above and beyond to serve it. The store is not only running a buy-one-get-one special through the holidays, but it carries luxury brands you can’t get anywhere else in town and unique, high-fashion styles that are imported from all over the world. Not to mention, the owners guarantee the lowest price — if you find the same specs elsewhere for less, they’ll match it.

How’s it possible that Sunglass Cabana can offer such a vast selection of rare styles for the lowest prices? First of all, one of the owners, Jeffrey Nesses, successfully runs upward of 30 eyewear shops in New York, so he buys in mass quantities to keep the prices low. It’s also not a risk for him to pick more interesting frames in addition to those best-selling styles we see all the time — the aviator, the wayfarer, etc. — whereas a small operation my find those harder to sell and scrap the idea of making an order. Likewise, big national chains must pick their stock according to what’s popular in any geographic area, but Nesses stresses that he’s geared his selection specifically toward the needs and styles of locals.

“After the renovation of the Highlands, this is exactly where we wanted to be and exactly who we want to serve,” Nesses said. “We live here and we know the styles. The chain stores can’t be as sensitive to their demographic areas.”

Nesses and his wife, Janice, have lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 11 years, but have been going back and forth between here and New York to operate their eyewear shops there (which focus more on prescription eyewear than sunglasses). An experienced businessman, Jeffrey has bought and sold several businesses in town, including Del Mar Pizza, but being an optician by trade, he’s happy to finally settle down in sunny San Diego and do what he knows best.

The Nesseses started Sunglass Cabana with some friends who were also in the eyewear business in New York. Igor Slony and Tania Stevens moved to Del Mar in January to collaborate with the Nesseses. Tania is also a licensed optometrist of more than 15 years.

The other three co-owners each bring expertise to the table as well — Igor is an operations manager, Jeffrey is a highly experienced buyer and Janice is a professionally trained interior designer. The bright, trendy look and Cabana-like feel of the store stands out, and it’s all the work of Janice herself. She uniquely patterned the ceiling with outdoor umbrella fabric to look like a cabana, and a number of other retailers have already been seeking her design expertise.

In the few short weeks Sunglass Cabana has had its doors open, it’s been “tremendously well-received,” Jeffrey said, adding that a couple of malls have already asked him to open up shop on their premises. “The Highlands really needed a sunglass store.”

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