Location: American Sun & Reader Company factory, located in the Cardello Building on Pittsburgh’s North Side

Featured guest: Caitlin Northup, American Sun & Reader’s vice president of product and marketing

3 things that surprised me:

  1. In the 1970s, most American eyeglasses production operations moved overseas and stayed there. American Sun & Reader opened its Pittsburgh factory a few years ago, and there was a big learning curve, since it was nearly impossible to find employees who had previous experience working in an eyeglasses factory.
  2. It takes between 10 days and two weeks to finish a pair of eyeglasses frames. Most of that time is spent in a series of tumblers full of wood and grit. The frames are tumbled in the canisters for 20 hours at a time to take off any sharp corners and give the frames a smooth appearance. Though some parts of these processes are automated, it still takes a lot of humans to make a pair of frames.
  3. Every frame gets its start as a sheet of acetate that the company gets from Italy. The other non-local components are the tiny hinges that the company buys from a specialty hinge factory in Germany.

One thing that didn’t make the final cut: Before it was home to an eyeglasses factory, the Cardello Building was the headquarters of Excelsior Coffin and Casket Works, later known as the National Casket Company. During the influenza epidemic in 1918, it was producing 1,000 caskets a week. In the early 20th century, the company was the largest coffin manufacturer in the country. In 1965, the National Casket Company moved to Kentucky and Cardello Lighting & Electric Supply bought the building.

Additional info: You can learn more and order a pair of eyeglasses at the American Sun & Reader website.

Want more Yinzer Backstage Pass? Check out our visit to the First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Pittsburgh and admire their Tiffany stained-glass windows valued at over 50 million dollars.