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Randolph Engineering Leads the Way on US-Made Eyewear

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South of Boston, a small family-owned company has been manufacturing eyewear with a large impact on the country. Founded in 1972, Randolph Engineering has spent the last four decades supplying the United States armed forces with military-grade aviators, Hollywood costume designers with authentic eyewear, and consumers with a top-notch American-made product. With roots in optical machinery, two Polish immigrants opted to make eyewear themselves, winning a major military contract just ten years later to provide the Air Force with aviators, notably cranking out 200,000 pairs for Desert Storm in 1990.

In recent years, the company has made a strong push into the lifestyle market, basing luxury styles (often a value with many pairs under $200) on its MIL-SPEC designs, which are still offered to the Air Force, Navy, and Marines under a "Frame of Choice" contract. But don't think the brand's tradition keeps it from pursuing fashion trends—over the past few weeks, Randolph has introduced its Flash colored-lens collection along with rose gold finishes, arguably the industry's metal du jour. We went behind-the-scenes at its Randolph factory to explore the production process at this storied business, chatting with third-generation family members along the way.

Domestic manufacturing and a military heritage aren't the only distinguishing characteristics of the Randolph brand. During our visit, Rick Waszkiewicz—director of sales operations and third-generation of the founding family—literally twisted a frame several times without breaking the solder joint or plating. "Opticians call us the tank of the optical industry. They can manipulate the frames easily," he says. Marketing manager Mary Waszkiewicz adds that they use a special solder material, "our own secret sauce." In addition, each pair of glasses comes with a maintenance kit, strengthening its lifetime guarantee.

So what needs to happen for the US manufacturing movement to become more mainstream? Mary cites the growing menswear market as a catalyst: "I think women gravitate toward how it looks where men do more research, they want to know the story." Rick asserts, "Consumers are getting smarter. Back in the 90s we went for the disposable approach. In tougher times, customers are looking at value and quality. Our Made in the USA statement supports that." As far as next steps go, Mary plans to build a brand book sharing the company story, open the factory to school tours, and on a grander scale, get Randolph Engineering sunglasses on the president.
· Randolph Engineering [Official Site]