The oldest family owned and operated frame manufacturer in the U.S., ArtCraft Optical is an undeniably important pillar in both its local Rochester, New York community and the country as a whole. The company has been manufacturing workforce and combat frames since 1918, and is currently in the hands of the third generation of the Eagle family.

With over 100 years of history, ArtCraft Optical has seen and adapted to it all—including COVID-19. The company slowed down a little at the start of the pandemic, Charlie Eagle, company vice president, told VM, but being in the Rx safety business—and over a century of experience—allowed ArtCraft to pivot quickly and effectively. Within a few months, ArtCraft added PPE into its sales channel, and then began direct supply programs of PPE to Disney Parks and hotels, Sam’s Club, Walmart, the DOD, U.S. Secret Service, federal and state courts and educational facilities from pre-schools to universities. This, Eagle told VM, “gave us some rare opportunities to expand our customer base, reach and experience.”

The ArtCraft team used their necessary shutdown time well, too. “We used the time during COVID to revamp our internal processes by adding new engineering talent and state of the art manufacturing equipment,” Eagle told VM. “Our engineers team also began creating one of kind optical frame control gauges to increase our product quality, drive down cost and increase efficiency. We also spent considerable time updating our standard optical processes and final quality control systems.

Frankly, in many ways there was a silver lining that gave us some breathing room from our rapid growth to then be able to come back even stronger and more nimble and ready to move faster than ever before to our customers for new critical projects.”

Eagle has found being an all-American company particularly beneficial over the past year and a half. In fact, he said, “many in the optical industry and industrial base have come to us to design and build new RX safety and combat [eyewear] products.” Because of their domestic sourcing and manufacturing, the ArtCraft Optical team has a tight and controlled supply chain, allowing those who work with them easy access to see their products in production at ArtCraft’s Rochester plant. This, Eagle said, “[gives] them more confidence they are getting exactly what they require.” Eagle calls ArtCraft Optical “very self-sufficient” when it comes to sourcing materials, and this, he said, is “critical to maintain uninterrupted product flow.”

With such a storied past and incredible relationships with other American institutions, ArtCraft Optical is undoubtedly part of America’s history—but it’s also part of the country’s future. Eagle continued, “ArtCraft’s opportunities have also allowed us to add [a] new generation of workers who are excited to be able to design products, work with top military and civilian engineers [and] then touch all aspects of the products and produce mission critical eyewear to the front lines.

We truly believe and are excited to be in the forefront of training and creating the next generation of USA Optical Frame workers. We are striving to reverse the perceptions that U.S. manufacturing is from a bygone era by creating the most dynamic work place for smart and talented U.S. engineers and ‘craft workers’ and produce the finest quality eyewear as per our two centuries of heritage.” n