Art-Craft Optical: The Next Generation Continues and Modernizes a 101-year Eyewear Originator

By Marge Axelrad, Vision Monday
Monday, September 16, 2019

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—The third generation is hard at work at Art-Craft Optical, continuing their grandfather’s legacy, one they see defining the company as synonymous with American-made legendary looks, world-class quality and a craftsmanship embedded in its DNA. Family-owned and continuously operated since 1918, Art-Craft is a global leader in the design and manufacture of dress frames, safety and military optical frames…

Charlie Eagle told VM, “Our grandfather, Charles J. Eagle, was originally a Swiss tool maker. He was a mechanical engineer, working in Washington D.C. designing different military gear and then moved up to Rochester N.Y., driving a motorcycle around and repairing optical equipment and tooling for companies like Bausch & Lomb, Shuron and others in the area. The U.S. Army asked him to provide eyewear for soldiers in WWI, asking him to produce cable eyewire frames for them to wear in the trenches and under gas masks and that’s how the company got its start.”

The company ultimately established more than 35 offices across the country and around the world. It started with gold-filled classic metals, pince-nez and full frame construction, on through the eras of metal and zyl combination frames. Then production grew into all aluminum frames, acetate and metal trim acetate, to then developing fashionable Rx safety frames in the 90s. Charles Eagle passed away in 1988, continuing to come to the office into his 90s. His son, Tom Eagle, had been overseeing the business. “My father, along with Art-Craft’s Marty Gullen, saw the industrial safety business as offering longevity to the company at a time when distributors and lab consolidation was growing.”

Throughout, Art-Craft’s work with the military, for the U.S. and international allies, continues today. Art-Craft supported the armed forces from WWI through WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and current conflicts, still partnering with the Department of Defense, and NATO Aligned Military and the stringent military needs of countries around the world.

Art-Craft’s dress frame or fashion frame business continues, primarily via major distributors and a small team of field reps. Stated Charlie, “We are proud of our singular history but we are also telling a new story to both consumers and eyecare professionals. We will be launching several new initiatives soon, as we enter our 102nd year of frame making.

Added Christopher Eagle, “We all know with tremendous consolidation in our industry, it’s a changed landscape. But we sense a new attitude and curiosity about made in U.S. frames.” Added Charlie Eagle, “We think it’s a great thing that there are now others committing to making frames here. We’ve been the lone optical frame maker in the U.S. for many years and the soldering, tool and equipment companies didn’t support the market, we invested in our own proprietary tools and expansion and traveled to work with partners. But we do see changes ahead.”