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A Chat with our Co-Founder Harry Bae

H arry Bae, attorney turned entrepreneur, was watched by Founder and CEO Anna Park years before she made him an offer to join Noon Shop as the COO. Bae’s hesitance to get on board was brief. Over a quick lunch by his law firm, he listened to Anna’s vision for Noon Shop, tried on the glasses, and that was that. He was in. 

Bae, 42, calls Seoul home but travels for work and pleasure a good chunk of the year, making him friends and partners across continents. His office that’s decorated with traces of his travels and no-so-subtle accessories suggest he’s accustomed to the finer things in life. But his jet setting lifestyle contradicts, in a way, who he is to his inner circle. Somewhere along the way, he’s dropped his accent that gave away his childhood home in the deep south of Korea. But a quick phone call from his mom turns him back into the small-town boy. His father is a prominent doctor back home.

To outsiders, it appears they’ve always had it all. What they don’t know is that when Bae was little, his father left his career and moved away from home to pursue medicine in his 40’s. As a result, Bae and his younger sister were raised by their mother, who struggled to make ends meet each month. By the time his father had finished medical school and residency and moved back home, Bae was in high school. Given his childhood, his warmth and work ethic make perfect sense. Like his mother’s, his humor is drier than crackers and has an uncanny ability to talk to anyone without them realizing the sky’s changed color. And like his father, Bae isn’t afraid to try something new in his 40’s. 

Bae graduated from Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law and again at his alma mater, Sungkyunkwan University’s law school in Seoul. Now a senior partner at a law firm, he jokes it just means bathroom breaks are scheduled into his Outlook. “Jokes aside, I love the different kind of challenges and opportunities Noon Shop brings me. If you told me ten years ago that I’d be in the optical industry, I wouldn’t have believed you.” Bae is one of those rare species in the 21st century who was born with and kept his uncorrected 20/20 vision. So, the optical industry wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Actually, he didn’t have any industry in mind.

"This might be stating the obvious, but what makes a business successful is when you can stand behind the workmanship of a product. No matter what industry, with a little time and elbow grease, the rest will follow. Joining Noon Shop was a no-brainer."

Despite the vast sea of options in the optical market, Bae saw a little niche for Noon Shop— access to unpretentious comfort, or in other words the elusive “perfect fit,” something surprisingly difficult to find for some people.

One of Bae’s initial criteria for the “right product” was that it had to be from Korea. “You don’t find anyone these days who haven’t had personal experience with Korean products. Cars, TVs, phones, dishwashers, you name it. Like all that Korea has become good at making, frames aren’t considered a simple product by any means. It requires detailed craftsmanship, engineering, and to top it off, great style. It’s rare. But that’s what Korean products, now comparable to Japanese products, are being known for. Trendy, made with quality materials and superior craftsmanship— the trifecta. That’s what our Korean-made brand Dormann encompasses. I love that part of Noon Shop’s identity is Korean. Our Korea office is in Gangnam, the epicenter for innovation and trends. The location symbolizes everything that Noon Shop stands for.”

While searching for the made-in-Korea label, Bae also fell for something made a bit further away. He isn’t discreet about his affections for Steel Brown, Noon Shop’s German-made brand. “Steel Brown is the brainchild of award-winning designer Wolfgang Proksch and designers in Seoul. Even though there’s German DNA in its material and innovation, I’m proud that its sleek design and functionality comes from our Korean designers. Everyone who’s ever held Steel Brown glasses in their hands, let alone wears them, becomes diehard fans. I certainly did.”

Bae’s journey with Noon Shop in America is just the beginning. He’s meticulous about the brands he adds to Noon Shop’s collection and the timing of it all. Noon Shop launched in the United States with two brands Dormann and Steel Brown, but Bae is already planning on adding more brands in the future.

"Searching for and introducing new brands feels incredibly rewarding for myself because it benefits consumers and sellers alike. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s fun for me. I love seeing the look on someone’s face when they try on our glasses."

When he’s not working, Bae travels, cooks for family and friends, and spends time with his wife who is carrying their baby girl due October.

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