By Katherine McGrath / Edited by Liz Petoniak / Photographs by Michael Fornataro
An oversized pair of vintage glasses, with the Pittsburgh skyline outlined in the lenses, hangs from Chromos Eyewear’s Lawrenceville storefront. Situated on bustling Butler Street, this summer celebrates the first brick and mortar location for the newest member of the Eyetique family. But, it’s clear that founder Daniel Childs has created a brand that extends beyond a simple eyewear shop — he’s making a mark on the city that’s all his own.
Inside the bright and airy, yet rustic, space, vintage bicycle displays showcase Childs’ ever-growing repertoire of frames and the brand’s signature color — orange — is splashed everywhere. The artwork of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Mia Tarducci Henry, Scott Hunter, and Atticus Adams is currently on exhibition around the shop and on Chromos’ “gallery” walls, where Childs says he will continue to feature local artists. The storefront will also open its doors to host local musicians during the neighborhood’s free R.A.N.T. music festival on August 15.
Though Childs originally developed the idea of Chromos for a class project at Syracuse University, he quickly realized he was onto something. “I initially started the line back in school because I had a bunch of friends who knew what my family business was, so they would ask me for discounts on Ray-Bans and Oakleys,” Childs explains. But even with the discounts, the designer frames were still too pricey for college kids and recent graduates. “They really only had expensive glasses from $100 and up, or throwaway sunglasses for $30 that you’re going to break or not care about, so I realized there was a gap in the market.”
Today Chromos offers quality frames for an affordable price: polarized sunglasses start at just $65, and all ophthalmic lenses and frames are $95. This sweet deal doesn’t mean sacrificing style either. Chromos is up on all of the current eyewear fashions, with frames ranging from circular and trendy, to Buddy Holly-inspired, and new designs are arriving at the shop all the time. Each style is named after something or someone special, such as “Luna” for his dog, and “Beacon,” “Butler,” “Rivers,” and others as a nod to the Pittsburgh community.
Childs’ brand will also contribute to the community by incorporating a prominent charitable aspect into his business model. Every pair of Chromos glasses sold helps support the Chromos Cares Giveback Program, which donates a pair of eyeglasses to a Pittsburgh school district student in need. “If you can’t see, you can’t learn,” says Childs, who wanted to give back to the city that has given so much to him. Chromos Cares jumped into action even before the store opened, when Childs and his team visited their neighbors at Arsenal Elementary School. Twenty-five students received eye exams and glasses that day. “There was this one kid, he was a little bit quiet and had never worn a pair of glasses in his whole life. It was amazing to see the look on his face when he put them on for the first time, and saw there was more to the world. His mouth kind of gaped open a little bit,” recalls Childs. “In five years, I’d like to put glasses on every kid in Pittsburgh who needs them. That’s the No. 1 goal.”