Where the Heck Did All Those $2 Paper Eclipse Glasses Come From? Meet the Guy Who Made 40 Million, Just in Time
American Paper Optics, maker of 3-D glasses and protective eyewear for eclipses, is getting a huge boost from the cosmos.
by Leigh Buchanan
August 21, of course, is the date of the solar eclipse, which will cut a swath from Oregon to South Carolina. Those not positioned to see the event at 100 percent might as well be smooching their sibling, according to Jerit, founder and CEO of American Paper Optics, located just outside of Memphis. But in the Memphis area, the view is just 94 percent, so Jerit plans to motor three hours to Nashville to enjoy the full lunar Monty. “If you get to Nashville it will be like experiencing a night of passion with the person that you most want to be with in your life,” says Jerit. “It will be an ‘Oh my God’ screaming and crying and cussing moment.”
For Jerit, awe of the natural is mixed with gratitude for the commercial. American Paper Optics is the nation’s largest maker of paper 3-D glasses: more than 2 billion pairs incorporated into magazines, kids’ meals, theme park rides, and Blu-ray movies.
The company also specializes in eclipse glasses that protect viewers’ eyes from ultraviolet radiation. The first total eclipse visible across the nation since 1918 will roughly double the company’s 2017 revenues, from $7 million to almost $14 million. Unlike most of American Paper Optics’ products, which are given away in promotions or packaged with DVDs and toys, the eclipse glasses are being sold in stores and online, for $2 a pop.
American Paper Optics has been making glasses in the Memphis area–the business is based in the city of Bartlett–since 1991. At Jerit’s factory the work force has swelled from around 40 to 70 in the two-and-a-half years that American Paper Optics has been preparing for E-Day.
Jerit expects to sell more than 40 million eclipse glasses, which incorporate a filter that reduces sunlight to safe levels. He has made glasses emblazoned with the names of companies, schools, and charities, as well as glasses attached to aliens’ heads, astronaut helmets, and cowboy hats.
Over 25 years, David Burder has sold tens of millions of American Paper Optics products through his company, 3D Images, England’s oldest supplier of all things 3D to the commercial marketplace. “They have never missed a deadline, despite some ridiculously short lead times,” says Burder. “They are always on the lookout for novel technology and have invested heavily in buying exclusive licenses.”
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