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Photo by James Moss
Bryan Barfield recognizes whimsical holidays, like National Chocolate Milk Day, at Kid Glasses Inc. to help foster a child-friendly environment.
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Photo by James Moss
To save money and create a distinctive design, Barfield personally built displays that hold more than 800 frames in stock.
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Photo by James Moss
Barfield uses several machines in his finishing lab, including a microscope for reading the prescription on the lens, a device that traces the frame and one that cuts the lenses.
EDWARDSVILLE — Bryan Barfield has been working with glasses for more than 30 years, but he only recently decided to open his own optical store for children.
He chose to open a child-oriented optical business for multiple reasons, including the problems he and his wife experienced with finding glasses for their 12-year-old daughter because of small selections at most stores. He also learned it could be a savvy business move.
“I kept seeing in optical magazines and when talking to people that kids’ glasses is the fastest-growing segment in the optical business,” he said. “It has become a much more accepted fashion item for kids. Kids are a lot more encouraged to wear glasses. Kids who don’t need glasses want glasses.”
Barfield began his life’s work in June 1986 by working at an optical store at his local mall, a job he said he enjoyed but did not expect to turn into his life’s passion.
Nevertheless, he quickly fell in love with the profession for numerous reasons, like the technical aspects and working with people. He said the combination of factors helps make his work worthwhile.
“It’s one of these very rewarding types of work,” he said. “Someone comes to you with a prescription that needs to be filled. They choose something that is fashionable, that makes them feel good about themselves. Then you get to make it and put it on them and make it fit them well. So getting to see people who are very pleased with what comes out of that transaction is really rewarding.”
Since his first job in the industry, Barfield has worked at several optical businesses, including owning his own store in Florida and working at the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Affairs center as an optician for the last five years.
In June, however, Barfield began setting up Kid Glasses Inc. at 435B S. Buchanan St., opening the store mostly out of savings and with help from his father.
After three months of work, he opened the business in mid-September. He offers a variety of services, including repairing and adjusting glasses regardless of where people purchase them. For $20, he will also help people purchase glasses online by taking measurements, verifying the prescription once the glasses arrive and adjusting the frames.
The focus of his business, though, is making glasses, which he has been doing for decades. Barfield described making glasses as a two-step process.
First, someone surfaces the lens, which involves grinding the prescription into the back of the lens. Then, the person making the glasses finishes the lens, which means cutting the lens to fit the frames.
At Kid Glasses, Barfield finishes lenses using what he called the only finish lab in Edwardsville. The finishing process includes tracing the lens with a machine, cutting it to fit the frame and properly positioning the optical center — the portion of the lens that must be centered on a person’s eye.
Because he does not surface the lenses, Barfield has more than 900 pairs of stock lenses, which he said means four out of five children can find their prescription at his location.
After he finishes the lens, he inserts them into the frame of his customer’s choosing and adjusts them so they fit comfortably. He has more than 800 frames in stock, including sports frames and specialty ones for infants and children with special needs.
The whole process, from finishing the lens to adjusting the frames, takes a half hour to an hour.
He takes pride in the plethora of stylish frames he sells, something he said his young clientele appreciate.
“Kids are very fashion-conscious,” he said. “They want something that’s going to look good. They want something that’s going to feel good. They want something that their friends have. They want something that looks cool.”
Prices vary, with more than 100 pairs of frames and lenses that cost $49 on the inexpensive side, and others that cost almost $300 on the higher end.
Although Barfield’s store is aimed at children, he also sells frames that fit adults.
“Even though this is called Kid Glasses Inc., our first tagline is ‘for kids of all ages,’” he said. “I’m not going to deny anyone who wants to buy glasses.”
Regardless of age, Barfield said he has a clear goal for each of his customers.
“I want them to have a completely satisfying purchasing experience,” he said. “I want them to be excited about the selection. I want them to be happy about the price. I want them to be thrilled with the service.”
Kids Glasses is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.