Daniel Childs was in college in Syracuse when he had an epiphany about eyewear.
Even after he helped friends get discounts on high-end glasses at his father’s stores, Eyetique and 3 Guys Optical, he still felt it was a little bit too expensive for college-age kids, young professionals — there were your $20 throwaway pairs of glasses, but nothing nicer that doesn’t cost less than a $100 bucks. This left a gap in the market, and Childs decided he would fill it.
And thus Chromos Eyewear was born.
Once Childs finished college and moved back to Pittsburgh, he decided that he “wanted to do more” than just disrupt the eyewear market. “I didn’t want to just have a business,’” he said. “I wanted to really give back to my community. It was only natural for us to do something involving glasses.”
After doing some research, Childs and his team realized that, across the country, there were many children failing their eye exams in school — and taking notes home to that effect — but they were not actually obtaining glasses due to the cost.
“That leads to a lot of problems with their education,” Childs said, “because they can’t see. And it’s not that they can’t learn or they can’t read, it’s just they can’t see the books and they can’t see the board, and that’s a problem we thought we could attack. That’s where the idea came from.”
Childs launched Chromos Cares, which “provides children in need with free eye exams and glasses to help them see a brighter future,” according to its website. Following the well-established saying that charity begins at home, Childs, a Pittsburgh native and a graduate of Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, decided Chromos Cares was “a natural fit” with Pittsburgh’s public schools.
The Chromos Cares team went to Arsenal Middle School in Lawrenceville on May 18 to provide free eye examinations to some of the school’s underprivileged students. A week later, they returned with free glasses.
Students were allowed to pick out their own frames, which were a hit, said Patti Camper, Arsenal Middle School’s principal. Such enthusiasm, she said, “is not the typical response for children who have to wear glasses. Usually you have to remind them over and over and over again: “Where are your glasses? Put on your glasses.”
Childs says Arsenal was just the beginning. “Once we get it rolling and work out how to do everything perfectly, that’s when we plan to expand to other areas and really ramp up the program” starting this fall. “We don’t have the specific schedule set up yet, but we are going to be rotating to a different school each month and giving eye exams and glasses to kids at those schools throughout the entire school year.”
Childs, who attended Community Day School, said his Jewish identity definitely influenced his decision to begin Chromos Cares. “Growing up Jewish, there’s obviously the idea of tzedakah and always giving back to those in need, something that has definitely affected me throughout my life. Being Jewish is something I’m proud of, and it’s definitely had a big effect on who I’ve become and who I am.”
Chromos, which began as an online-only brand and was later sold at Eyetique and 3 Guys Optical locations, will open its first stand-alone store in Lawrenceville on July 1, because it’s an area that has “the right demographic … there are a lot of young adults who live in that area. So just from a price point of the brand, and what the brand’s about as well, we thought it was the perfect fit.”
The Lawrenceville storefront will feature local artists and host events. Childs says this is part of today’s market, in which “you need to do more than just sell products, especially in an area like Lawrenceville where there’s a lot going on.
In order to succeed in today’s market, said Childs, a company needs to be “unique.” “You have to stand out.” Childs hopes his business will do just that.
Masha Shollar is an intern for The Chronicle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.