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- All photos by Flagship Photo
- In total, Randolph employs over 60 people (both front- and back-office), hiring close to 30 of them in the last couple of years. Most of the machinery was made by hand, remaining in use for the past several decades.
- Brass eye shapes are used to "wind eyes," a process where decades-old machines take wire off a spool to shape and bend a left and right eye for the frame.
- Everyone on the production line knows how to work each station, resulting in highly trained workers (of mostly Polish and Vietnamese descent) completing 200 hand-crafted steps to manufacture each pair of eyewear, including soldering the eyes, installing t
- Product manager Casey Sullivan points out a historical board on the factory floor, showcasing past styles for archival reference.
- Prior to plating, every metal frame enters a ceramic stone bath to polish the surface. Following the bath, remaining imperfections are hand polished. Frames are then shipped to Rhode Island for plating. Any gold plated styles boast about $15 worth of 23k
- Frames are outfitted with mineral crown glass lenses or polycarbonate, which are preferred for the shooting line given the high impact. Pilots favor glass for clarity. Though the factory no longer cuts glass, it used to pour its own and make its own lense
- The final assembly steps include pad printing lenses with the Randolph Engineering logo and the arms with style, model, size, and country of origin information. Machines attach temple tips for a tight fit before workers give each pair a good polishing. Al
- A small but effective retail display greets visitors upon walking into the office. More than a dozen styles are available to try on, as well as the brand's optical line and shooting collection.
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]