BUSINESS State and AO Reach New Heights By Gwendolyn Plummer Friday, September 10, 2021 12:59 AM RELATED CONTENT Made in USA 100+ Years of American-Made for ArtCraft Optical Thema’s Winning Combo: Italian Designed, American Made Made in Brooklyn, With Love from Modo Hilco Vision’s American Safety Randolph’s American Dream Like Its Home City, Lowercase Never Sleeps The McGee Group Plans to Start Making Frames in the U.S. When Europa Eyewear opened its state-of-the-art factory in Chicago in 2014, the American-made eyewear game changed forever. Europa now produces State Optical, Alan J. and AO Eyewear at its Chicago factory, which employs dozens of artisans who do about 50 percent of the production by hand. State, Alan J. and AO have been American-made staples for coming up on a decade now—but the past 18 months have presented a new challenge for the storied company to take on. Europa does source some of its materials, including acetate, from overseas, a process which CEO Scott Shapiro told VM has been “frustrating” over the past year and a half—but sales are through the roof. “It’s been like ‘a tale of two businesses,’” said Shapiro. “Our demand has never been higher. Coming out of the pandemic, sales of our American-made brands have been on fire, and higher than it’s ever been. Unfortunately, we face steep challenges when it comes to sourcing and production. We have to source our acetate and some other small components from overseas, and that process has been extremely frustrating, as factories around the world continue to open-and-close due to the pandemic, and international shipping logistics have become all but impossible to predict. Add to that, the fact that hiring is very challenging right now, and you have an environment that makes it even harder than usual to produce eyewear in America.” Despite these challenges, business is sky rocketing, and Shapiro is confident. “We know the whole world is dealing with these problems, and we’re confident that once we can collectively overcome them, demand will remain strong and we’ll be able to reach our aggressive goals.” Like others, Shapiro has found the Made in USA story to be more powerful than ever over the past year and a half. “There’s been a natural shift for consumers,” he explained. “The pandemic has left them with a desire to ‘band together’ and they want to spend their dollars more locally and domestically. But even more palpable, is the fact that many businesses (including independent ECPs) spent much of this year re-evaluating their businesses and their partners. Standing for something, like high quality domestic manufacturing, has never been more valuable or necessary.” And there’s nothing the State, Alan J. and AO teams do better than provide that high quality domestic manufacturing. As business grows and State, Alan J. and AO reach heights that rival Chicago’s greatest skyscrapers, Shapiro keeps the domestic optical community at the forefront of his business and his heart. “Even in our darkest hour, in March and April of 2020 when we were all but shut down and our customers were closed, we were receiving calls from new customers asking us about State, Alan J and AO,” he told VM. They all got through this together—and will grow from it together, too.