JOB CREATION, QUALITY CONTROL AND BEING TRANSPARENT ABOUT THE MANUFACTURING POINT OF ORIGIN IS AT THE HEART OF THESE U.S. FRAME COMPANIES.
China, India, Mexico…there is no shortage of available cheap labor overseas. But there are many significant and compelling factors that have inspired a number of frame manufacturers to shift their operations back to the U.S. or, for some, to start their business here in the first place.
“We partner with frame lines that we can relate to or that have a story,” said Nate Ogura, owner of Eyes on Fremont in Seattle, WA. “‘Let’s be honest, ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is about as good of a story as you can get right now in eyewear. In particular, we love telling the story of Kala Eyewear [owned by Daniel Lau]: Father opens in the Bay Area, and the two brothers take over and continue to run it today as one of the few made in-the-U.S. frame lines.”
Randolph Engineering, Inc., has a similarily inspiring tale, according to president/CEO Peter Waszkiewicz. “Our founder emigrated to the United States from Poland, and he built this business with the American Dream in mind,” Waszkiewicz expressed. “This dream is a major part of Randolph Engineering’s heritage along with believing that there is no better quality than that which is handcrafted in the U.S.”
Eye on Employment
One of the major benefits of American production is being able to contribute to the local and national economy. That’s the philosophy behind American Eyewear. “We started our company, in part, because everyone told us we could not make frames in America cost effectively, and I wanted to prove that we could,” said Robert Coppock, CEO. “We wanted to provide Americans with jobs. This was the key! And still to this day, that is what it is all about.”
Many wearers actually seek out domestically manufactured products, according to several optical shops around the country. “The quality and craftsmanship of U.S.-made products says to the patient, ‘I care about you, the community and the health of the local economy,’” explained Colton Kirby of Shields and Shields in Knoxville, TN. Lisa Kruitbosch, OD, and owner of Pismo Beach Optix in Pismo Beach, CA, added that, in addition to providing jobs at home, American manufacturing provides convenience, and lower cost on deliveries, and products arrive more quickly.
Upping the QC
Overseas manufacturing often entails time delays in communication, waiting periods for product approval and foreign language barriers. Costa started manufacturing more than 50% of its products in the U.S. more than 15 years ago, according to John Sanchez, VP of product development. “There is a competitive advantage in being able to walk 50 feet in-house to talk to someone who speaks the same language and understands domestic markets,” Sanchez said. He shared that the brand once considered outsourcing when it was constrained by capacity but instead decided to invest in people and equipment. The company imports parts from Italy, France and Japan but assembles the sunglasses by hand in its Daytona Beach, FL, workshop.
Waszkiewicz of Randolph noted that quality control checks at home are more extensive than overseas, ensuring that the frames meet the standards of the brand and its followers.
Scott Shapiro, co-founder of STATE Optical, Co., also sees more freedom on the creative end. “There is no factory restricting how we can design and engineer our frames. What really makes STATE special is that we were able to custom build our factory around the designs, not the other way around.”
Ethics and Values
Nic Persinger, an optician and VP at Annapolis Opticians appreciates the transparency that comes with American-made products. “One of our main goals in our family-owned shop is to carry glasses that are made ethically. It’s really nice to be able to tell customers we know exactly where these glasses were made and by whom.”
Michael Bullard, from SoLo Eyecare in Chicago, got to see the STATE Optical process first-hand: “There are no secrets, you will see how [STATE frames are] made from beginning to end.”
Michael Hoyt, OD., of Artisan Eyeworks in Ashland, OR, concurred. “Authenticity is something we value deeply. When someone asks [for an aviator style], we show them a Randolph sun and let them know that it is now the brand worn by the armed services pilots and that it is domestically made. The back story is a little secret that they can carry with them.”
Kaitlyn Robertson has been writing for over a decade, with the majority of that time spent in the eyewear field.
WHERE TO FIND IT: American Eyewear 615.891.2558 • American-Eyewear.com • Info@American-Eyewear.com // Costa 800.447.3700 • CostaDelMar.com • B2BSales@CostaDelMar.comc // Europa International 800.621.4108 • EuropaEye.com • Contact@StateOpticalCo.com // Kala Eyewear 510.887.1737 • KalaEyewear.com • Info@KalaEyewear.comm // Randolph Engineering, Inc. 800.541.1405 • RandolphUSA.com • CustomerService@RandolphUSA.com