Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Looking back on sailing through dinner with a pair of business owners

We almost consider it a wasted evening out if we don’t run into old friends we can sit and talk with for an hour or so.

I should rephrase that. An evening is never wasted when we are dining at one of the area’s fine eateries, even when we are by ourselves. The lady of the house and I can spend an enjoyable evening alone in conversation, studying the menu and talking over the day’s events.

But other people, even though they may be strangers, do add spice to the conversation. So if it happens that they are people we have met for the first time, that is a perfectly acceptable way to spend an evening — talking things over with them.

I confess that we do meet a lot of new people everywhere we go because, let’s face it, I have my picture in the paper every Sunday, and folks we have never met look us over and consider us to be people they might like to talk to.

We never object to that. And do you know what? One hundred percent of the people we meet under those circumstances turn out to be friendly, interesting, likeable  folks we would love to see again simply because they are nice and fun to be with.

A case in point: A couple weeks ago we were at Skye Restaurant in Mentor, a regular stop in our busy schedule of looking things over and checking things out.

You would be surprised, perhaps even shocked, to learn some of the important things that have come to our attention simply by being at Skye, Molinari’s, Dino’s, Noosa, or any of the other spots where we often find ourselves when hunger pangs summon and require attention.

Yes, I admit we are still angry that Gavi’s in Willoughby has closed. But we have moved on, and never become depressed about such an insignificant matter when there are so many other fish to be fried, as the late Gov. Jim Rhodes might have put it.

But I digress. We were sitting at Skye the other evening and could tell by the glances from another couple that they seemed to know us.

Maybe it’s that ubiquitous picture that’s in the paper every week. It is not a new picture. I think Duncan Scott took it many years ago to replace a mug shot displaying a haircut from another era. But people say it looks like me.

So we introduced ourselves. They turned out to be Dane and Melanie Clark and they are from Perry.

As I got the story, they were in business, retired, and then went into business again.

They are very young entrepreneurs. But they love what they are doing, and do a very good job of it, so I am sure much success is bound their way.

When I tell you the name of their company, you will probably never guess what exactly it is they do. So I will tell you.

The name of their company is Nautique Optix.

Still haven’t got it? They make “Exotic Wood Sunglasses.” It is the frames, of course, that are made of wood, not the lenses. If the lenses were made of wood, well, I won’t even get into that.

They previously owned a precision optics company called Visimax Technologies, but they sold it in 2010. They officially retired in 2011 and, finding a lot of time on their hands, took to the high seas.

Actually, they took to the waves of Lake Erie. They love the water and they love traveling, so they spent a lot of their “retirement” boating and traveling.

But they got the itch to use their time more profitably. (Both had enjoyed careers in which they applied coatings to lenses.)

So why not, they reasoned, make wooden frames with a boating theme for sunglasses? Thus they jumped headfirst into their new enterprise, with Dane Clark (not the movie actor, they don’t even look alike) as president and CEO, and Melanie as vice president.

The lady of the house and I didn’t do a full-scale interview. We just had a friendly conversation with them. So there’s a lot about their company I don’t know, such as how many employees they have, who does what, and so forth.

But I do know that they do it in Perry, I think on Lane Road, and as of a few weeks ago they had sold 250 pairs of “wooden” sunglasses.

If you are in the market for anything that exotic, a new pair would be excellent for the Fourth of July, or even Labor Day, but be advised they are not cheap.

They run from $180 to $290. And they are marvelous conversation pieces.

Frankly, I can’t envision a pair on me. But vanity, thy name is woman. Or maybe its frailty. I can’t remember which it is.

Anyway, if a pair shows up in our household, I wouldn’t be shocked.

Surprised maybe, but not shocked.

Meanwhile, Dane and Melanie are terrific human beings and great business people. I hope we run into them again soon. I can almost guess where that might be.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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