Shop's glasses repairs are a sight to see

Laurel firm fixes frames some might call lost cause

Small business

October 27, 2003|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Tyrone Pointer, Eyeglasses get a lot of abuse, from being sat on and crushed under car wheels to being run over by lawnmowers and bent out of shape by curious children.

But when those new designer frames are torn in two, limping along with one arm detached or mangled and broken, Chris Baragas' All American Eyeglass Repair can make them straight, whole and usable - all for about $50.

Baragas' shop on U.S. 1 in Laurel has been repairing broken eyeglass frames for nine years, but since Baragas bought the business a year ago, he's opened a second location in Pikesville.

This year, sales are up 252 percent over the last year, and profits have risen 344 percent, Baragas said.

The Houston native gets most of his business from opticians who refer customers who do not want the $100 to $200 expense of a new pair of frames.

A quick fix

While the customers wait - he tries to handle most jobs in about 20 minutes - Baragas sands and solders pieces in his cramped office, grabs tools and uses tiny parts to put together frames some think are a lost cause.

"When you come in with something like this, the optical [stores] can't fix them," he said gesturing to a metal pair snapped in two at the bridge. "We handle all the stuff the optical [stores] don't do."

Heavy-duty work

That "stuff" includes repairing hinges, enlarging screw holes, replacing frame joints and nose pads, reshaping frames for proper fitting and soldering snapped plastic or metal frames back together.

Baragas also hand-polishes frames and matches paint to make the repair as unnoticeable as possible.

"I have seen their work and it's very good," said Frankie Henry, manager of Lens Crafters at Laurel Centre Mall. "I recommend them at least every other day to someone. We get a lot of people with broken glasses that are not really ready to purchase new ones. Most people come back and show me the work, and they are very happy."

A family trade

Baragas, 24, was introduced to the cottage industry of frame repair in Houston through his uncle Phil Baragas, who has a chain of repair shops.

The business was so popular, Baragas said, that his uncle taught the trade to friends and family members, several of whom opened their own stores.

After working for his uncle for five years, Baragas and his wife, Christina, moved to Virginia with the hope of expanding a repair business owned by another uncle. But soon after, the Laurel shop's owner decided to sell, and Baragas decided to buy.

The industry is not a particularly lucrative one - Baragas' repair jobs range in price from $10 to about $55 - but with referrals from opticians as far as Prince George's County, business has been steady, he said.

"When you own it, you've got so much more stuff on your mind. It's a lot more exciting," he said.

After buying the Laurel store, Baragas spent a year teaching his wife the trade before opening the Pikesville location this spring. Now they both work six days a week. Their stores guarantee work for 30 days; for children's glasses an extended warranty of six months is offered.

A job well done

"I've had customers come back and thank me for referring them. They save a lot of money, instead of purchasing new eyewear," said Tyrone Pointer, a supervisor at Doctor's Vision Works in the Columbia Crossing shopping center who has been recommending All American to customers for a few years.

"He does good repairs. He's quick about his service, and he's willing to work with a lot of patients," Pointer said.

Baragas said it's a service he enjoys providing.

"We're just trying to help people out - get them seeing again," he said.

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